High resolution δ18O and δ13C records from an annually laminated Scottish stalagmite and relationship with last millennium climate

Andy Baker, Rob Wilson, Ian J. Fairchild, Joerg Franke, Christoph Spötl, Dave Mattey, Valerie Trouet, Lisa Fuller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


High-resolution (annual to decadal) stable isotope records of oxygen and carbon are analysed from an annually laminated stalagmite from NW Scotland. The sample, which was deposited for ~1000yrs until 1996AD, has previously provided annual resolution climate reconstructions of local rainfall and regional winter North Atlantic Oscillation (wNAO) from variations in annual growth rate. For our stalagmite, for which modern cave monitoring demonstrates that equilibrium deposition is highly likely for δ18O but not for δ13C, stalagmite δ13C originally derives from soil CO2 produced predominantly by microbial respiration, modified by degassing-related kinetic fractionation, and δ18O from the composition of infiltrating water during periods of infiltrating water. Both the presence of fluorescent laminae and modern drip-water monitoring demonstrate a drip hydrology that comprises both event and storage components. Over the instrumental period, no correlations between stalagmite or rainfall δ18O and precipitation amount or temperature are observed, but correlations are observed between rainfall δ18O and 500mb height at regional IAEA monitoring stations. However, no correlations are observed between stalagmite δ18O and instrumental and reconstructed atmospheric circulation, preventing a simple palaeoclimate interpretation of the stalagmite δ18O proxy. Stalagmite δ13C has a stronger temporal autocorrelation than δ18O, indicative of soil mixing of respired CO2 and significant variability between drips and at different times; correlations with instrumental climate data are therefore not possible. The relative timing of changes in growth rate, δ18O and δ13C are discussed, and interpretations compared with other regional climate records. We conclude that, over the last millennium at this mid-latitude cave site, neither δ18O nor δ13C cannot be interpreted as a simple paleoclimate proxy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)303-311
Number of pages9
JournalGlobal and Planetary Change
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Dec 2011


  • Atmospheric circulation
  • Carbon isotope
  • Oxygen isotope
  • Paleoclimate
  • Rainfall
  • Stalagmite

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Oceanography


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