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Climate of the Past An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 11 Jul 2019

Submitted as: research article | 11 Jul 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Climate of the Past (CP).

Reconstructing seasonality through stable isotope and trace element analysis of the Proserpine stalagmite, Han-sur-Lesse Cave, Belgium: indications for climate-driven changes during the last 400 years

Stef Vansteenberge1, Niels de Winter1, Matthias Sinnesael1, Sophie Verheyden2,1, Steven Goderis1,3, Stijn J. M. Van Malderen3, Frank Vanhaecke3, and Philippe Claeys1 Stef Vansteenberge et al.
  • 1Department of Analytical, Environmental and Geochemistry, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Pleinlaan 2, B-1050 Brussels, Belgium
  • 2Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Jennerstraat 13, B-1000 Brussels, Belgium
  • 3Department of Analytical Chemistry, Ghent University, Campus Sterre, Krijgslaan 281 S12, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium

Abstract. Annually laminated speleothems allow the reconstruction of paleoclimate down to a seasonal scale. In this study, an annually laminated stalagmite from the Han-sur-Lesse Cave (Belgium) is used to study the expression of the seasonal cycle in northwestern Europe during the Little Ice Age. More specifically, two historical 12-year-long growth periods (ca. 1593–1605 CE and 1635–1646 CE) and one modern growth period (1960–2010 CE) are analysed on a sub-annual scale for their stable isotope ratios (δ13C and δ18O) and trace element (Mg, Sr, Ba, Zn, Y, Pb, U) content. Seasonal variability in the proxies is confirmed with frequency analysis. Zn, Y and Pb show distinct annual peaks in all three investigated periods related to annual flushing of the soil during winter. A strong seasonal in phase relationship between Mg, Sr and Ba in the modern growth period reflects a substantial influence of prior calcite precipitation (PCP). In particular, PCP occurs during summers when recharge of the epikarst is low. This is also evidenced by earlier observations of increased δ13C values during summer. In the 17th century intervals, there is a distinct antiphase relationship between Mg, Sr and Ba, suggesting that varying degrees of incongruent dissolution of dolomite control the observed seasonal variations. The processes controlling seasonal variations in Mg, Sr and Ba in the speleothem appear to change between the 17th century and 1960–2010 CE. The Zn, Y, Pb and U concentration profiles, stable isotope ratios and morphology of the speleothem laminae all point towards increased seasonal amplitude in cave hydrology and higher drip water discharge during the 17th century. These observations reflect an increase in water excess above the cave and recharge of the epikarst, due to a combination of lower summer temperatures and increased winter precipitation during the 17th century. This study indicates that the transfer function controlling Mg, Sr and Ba seasonal variability varies over time. Which process is dominant, either PCP or dolomite dissolution, is clearly climate-driven and can thus be used as a paleoclimate proxy itself.

Stef Vansteenberge et al.
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Stef Vansteenberge et al.
Stef Vansteenberge et al.
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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
We measured the chemical composition (trace element concentrations and stable isotope ratios) of a Belgian speleothem that deposited annual layers. Our sub-annual resolution dataset allows us to investigate how the chemistry of this speleothem recorded changes in the environment and climate in northwestern Europe. We then use this information to reconstruct climate change during the 16th and 17th century on the seasonal scale and demonstrate that environmental change drives speleothem chemistry.
We measured the chemical composition (trace element concentrations and stable isotope ratios) of...