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Holocene climate variability in Texas, USA: An integration of existing paleoclimate data and modeling with a new, high-resolution speleothem record

July 7, 2015

Delineating the climate processes governing precipitation variability in drought-prone Texas is critical for predicting and mitigating climate change effects, and requires the reconstruction of past climate beyond the instrumental record. We synthesize existing paleoclimate proxy data and climate simulations to provide an overview of climate variability in Texas during the Holocene. Conditions became progressively warmer and drier transitioning from the early to mid Holocene, culminating between 7 and 3 ka (thousand years ago), and were more variable during the late Holocene. The timing and relative magnitude of Holocene climate variability, however, is poorly constrained owing to considerable variability among the different records. To help address this, we present a new speleothem (NBJ) reconstruction from a central Texas cave that comprises the highest resolution proxy record to date, spanning the mid to late Holocene. NBJ trace-element concentrations indicate variable moisture conditions with no clear temporal trend. There is a decoupling between NBJ growth rate, trace-element concentrations, and δ18O values, which indicate that (i) the often direct relation between speleothem growth rate and moisture availability is likely complicated by changes in the overlying ecosystem that affect subsurface CO2 production, and (ii) speleothem δ18O variations likely reflect changes in moisture source (i.e., proportion of Pacific-vs. Gulf of Mexico-derived moisture) that appear not to be linked to moisture amount.

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