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Holocene sea surface temperature and sea ice extent in the Okhotsk and Bering Seas

August 4, 2014

Accurate prediction of future climate requires an understanding of the mechanisms of the Holocene climate; however, the driving forces, mechanisms, and processes of climate change in the Holocene associated with different time scales remain unclear. We investigated the drivers of Holocene sea surface temperature (SST) and sea ice extent in the North Pacific Ocean, and the Okhotsk and Bering Seas, as inferred from sediment core records, by using the alkenone unsaturation index as a biomarker of SST and abundances of sea ice-related diatoms (F. cylindrus and F. oceanica) as an indicator of sea ice extent to explore controlling mechanisms in the high-latitude Pacific. Temporal changes in alkenone content suggest that alkenone production was relatively high during the middle Holocene in the Okhotsk Sea and the western North Pacific, but highest in the late Holocene in the eastern Bering Sea and the eastern North Pacific. The Holocene variations of alkenone-SSTs at sites near Kamchatka in the Northwest Pacific, as well as in the western and eastern regions of the Bering Sea, and in the eastern North Pacific track the changes of Holocene summer insolation at 50°N, but at other sites in the western North Pacific, in the southern Okhotsk Sea, and the eastern Bering Sea they do not. In addition to insolation, other atmosphere and ocean climate drivers, such as sea ice distribution and changes in the position and activity of the Aleutian Low, may have systematically influenced the timing and magnitude of warming and cooling during the Holocene within the subarctic North Pacific. Periods of high sea ice extent in both the Okhotsk and Bering Seas may correspond to some periods of frequent or strong winter–spring dust storms in the Mongolian Gobi Desert, particularly one centered at ∼4–3 thousand years before present (kyr BP). Variation in storm activity in the Mongolian Gobi Desert region may reflect changes in the strength and positions of the Aleutian Low and Siberian High. We suggest that periods of eastward displacement or increased intensity of the Aleutian Low correspond with times of increased extent of sea ice in the western Okhotsk Sea and eastern Bering Sea.