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Bartlein, P.J., Harrison, S.P., Brewer, S., Connor, S., Davis, B.A.S., Gajewski, K., Guiot, J., Harrison-Prentice, T.L., Henderson, A., Peyron, O., Prentice, I.C., Scholze, M., Seppii, H., Shuman, B., Sugita, S., Thompson, R.S., Viau, A.E., Williams, J., and Wu, H., 2010. Pollen-based continental climate reconstructions at 6 and, 21 ka: a global synthesis. Climate Dynamics, DOI 10.1007/s00382-010-0904-1. published online Sept. 30, 2010.

Carrara, P.E., 2011, Deglaciation and postglacial treeline fluctuation in the northern San Juan Mountains, Colorado. USGS Professional Paper 1782 (

Rosenbaum, J.G., and Kaufman D.S., eds., 2009, Paleoenvironments at Bear Lake, Utah and Idaho, and its catchment, Geological Society of America Special Paper 450, 351 p.

Thompson, R.S., Anderson, K.H., Bartlein, P.J., 2008. Quantitative estimation of bioclimatic parameters from presence/absence vegetation data in North America by the modern analog technique. Quaternary Science Reviews, v., 27 (11-12), pp. 1234-1254.

Thompson, R.S., Anderson, K.H., Pelltier, R.T., Shafer, S.L. and Bartlein, P.J., 1999 to 2007. Atlas of relations between climatic parameters and distributions of important trees and shrubs in North America. U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1650 (five volumes).

Climate Change, Land Use, and Environmental Sensitivity (CLUES2)

This project seeks to provide long-term perspectives on natural variability and on environmental impacts of past climatic changes on arid and semiarid Federal lands in the western United States (with a particular emphasis on the Holocene of the Upper Colorado River Basin). Our research addresses the nature, timing, and environmental effects of Late Quaternary climatic changes across this physiologically complex region, which encompasses geographic and elevational gradients in temperature, moisture, and the seasonality of precipitation. Consequently, we aim to reconstruct climatic and environmental variability and change for the past 25,000 years in four dimensions (time, latitude, longitude, and elevation) across a broad spatial coverage that captures the primary climatic gradients of this region.

The scientific work of the CLUES2 project includes characterizing the modern relations between climatic parameters and plant distributions; studying past changes in plant distributions, lake environments, and other environmental indicators; developing methods to obtain quantitative estimates of past climatic conditions (with associated uncertainty values); and, comparing our reconstructions with numerical model simulations of past climatic and environmental conditions.

Why is this research important?

Studies of the past reveal how much and how quickly climate can change, even without the potential effects of human actions. In the western United States, past climatic changes were complex, differed in degree across elevation, and included changes in mean conditions, variability, and seasonality. Ecosystem responses were also complex, with different species having different thresholds that caused either die offs in the previously acceptable ranges and/or opportunities for dispersal to new habitats. As a consequence, biotic communities were ephemeral and undergoing constant change. It should be expected that future climatic changes will also be complex, as will the environmental responses to these changes.

The comparison of paleoclimatic and paleoenvironmental reconstructions with model simulations for key past time periods provides information and insights that may be important in considering potential future changes. This comparison provides a basis for evaluating how well models can simulate conditions different from those of today. In addition, model simulations may indicate the climatic circulation patterns responsible for geographic and elevational patterns observed in the paleo reconstructions.

Principal Investigator: Robert S. Thompson

Project Team: Anderson, Katherine H.; Carrara, Paul E.; Dean, Walter E.; Honke, Jeffrey; Pelltier, Richard T.; Rosenbaum, Joseph G.; Skipp, Gary L.; Strickland, Laura E.; Thompson, Robert S.

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