Holocene interaction of maritime and continental climate in Central Europe: New speleothem evidence from Central Germany

Sebastian F.M. Breitenbach*, Birgit Plessen, Sarah Waltgenbach, Rik Tjallingii, Jens Leonhardt, Klaus Peter Jochum, Hanno Meyer, Bedartha Goswami, Norbert Marwan, Denis Scholz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
21 Downloads (Pure)


Central European climate is strongly influenced by North Atlantic (Westerlies) and Siberian High circulation patterns, which govern precipitation and temperature dynamics and induce heterogeneous climatic conditions, with distinct boundaries between climate zones. These climate boundaries are not stationary and shift geographically, depending on long-term atmospheric conditions. So far, little is known about past shifts of these climate boundaries and the local to regional environmental response prior to the instrumental era. High resolution multi-proxy data (stable oxygen and carbon isotope ratios, S/Ca and Sr/Ca) from two Holocene stalagmites from Bleßberg Cave (Thuringia) are used here to differentiate local and pan-regional environmental and climatic conditions Central Germany through the Holocene. Carbon isotope and S/Ca and Sr/Ca ratios inform us on local Holocene environmental changes in and around the cave, while δ 18 O (when combined with independent records) serves as proxy for (pan-)regional atmospheric conditions. The stable carbon isotope record suggests repeated changes in vegetation density (open vs. dense forest), and increasing forest cover in the late Holocene. Concurrently, decreasing S/Ca values indicate more effective sulfur retention in better developed soils, with a stabilization in the mid-Holocene. This goes in hand with changes in effective summer infiltration, reflected in the Sr/Ca profile. Highest Sr/Ca values between 4 ka and 1 ka BP indicate intensified prior calcite precipitation resulting from reduced effective moisture supply. The region of Bleßberg Cave is sensitive to shifts of the boundary between maritime (Cfb) and continental (Dfb) climate and ideally suited to reconstruct past meridional shifts of this divide. We combined the Bleßberg Cave δ 18 O time series with δ 18 O data from Bunker Cave (western Germany) and a North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) record from lake SS1220 (SW Greenland) to reconstruct the mean position of the Cfb-Dfb climate boundary. We further estimate the dynamic interplay of the North Atlantic Oscillation and the Siberian High and their influence on Central European climate. Repeated shifts of the Cfb-Dfb boundary over the last 4000 years might explain previously observed discrepancies between proxy records from Europe. Detailed correlation analyses reveal multi-centennial scale alternations of maritime and continental climate and, concurrently, waning and waxing influences of Siberian High and NAO on Central Europe.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)144-161
Number of pages18
JournalGlobal and Planetary Change
Early online date14 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019
Externally publishedYes


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