Contrasting climatic histories for the Snake River Plain, Idaho, resulting from multiple thermal maxima

Owen K. Davis, John C. Sheppard, Susan Robertson

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53 Scopus citations


Ten sites near the Snake River Plain have consistent differences in their climatic histories. Sites at low elevation reflect the "early Holocene xerothermic" of the Pacific Northwest, whereas most climatic chronologies at high elevation indicate maximum warmth or aridity somewhat later, ca. 6000 yr ago. This elevational contrast in climatic histories is duplicated at three sites from the central Snake River Plain. For sites in such close proximity, the different chronologies cannot be explained by changes in atmospheric circulation during the late Quaternary. Rather, the differences are best explained by the autecology of the plants involved and the changing seasonal climate. The seasonal climatic sequence predicted by multiple thermal maxima explains the high- and low-elevation chronologies. During the early Holocene, maximum insolation and intensified summer drought in July forced low-elevation vegetation upward. However, moisture was not a limiting factor at high elevation, where vegetation moved upward in response to increased length of growing season coincident with maximum September insolation 6000 yr ago.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)321-339
Number of pages19
JournalQuaternary Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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