Quaternary Paleoclimate

Quaternary Paleoclimate

Quaternary Science Reviews, Vol. 1, pp. i-vi, 1 9 8 3 . Printed in Great Britain. All rights reserved. 0277-3791/83/030001-653.00/0 Pergamon Press Lt...

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Quaternary Science Reviews, Vol. 1, pp. i-vi, 1 9 8 3 . Printed in Great Britain. All rights reserved.

0277-3791/83/030001-653.00/0 Pergamon Press Ltd.


Quaternary Paleoclimate, edited by W.C. Mahaney (1981), Norwich, England. Geo Abstracts Ltd., ISBN 0 - 8 6 0 9 4 - 0 7 6 - 4 , £17.00, 464 pp.

Although not evident from the title of the book, Quaternary Paleoclimate is a proceedings volume arising from the 4th Quaternary Research Conference held at York University, Toronto, Canada in May 1979. The book itself is undated but the evidence suggests that it was published in 1981. Any edited volume on such a broad theme as paleoclimate might be expected to cover a diverse range of topics and techniques and in this respect the book fully lives up to expectations. As noted in the preface, the approaches cover 'stratigraphic, pedologic, geomorphic, palynologic, isotopic, paleontologic and archaeologic evidence'. Thus there can hardly be a Quaternary Research worker who cannot find something of interest in the volume. As numerous reviewers in the past have observed, the organiser of a conference such as this has to be realistic and is therefore to a degree at the mercy of what the participants submit within the submission deadlines which have necessarily to be imposed. Overall Mahaney can be well satisfied with the efforts of his participants for they have produced a set of well illustrated papers. The format is photo reduced camera ready typescript but the quality of the reproduction is first class and even the photographs are very well printed. In this respect we must congratulate the publisher. There are 21 papers included in the volume plus an abstract relating to the conference. The authors of the papers are drawn from the North American continent with the sole exception of a lone United Kingdom based contributor. Apart from the latter, of the remaining 35, 20 are workers with host country bases and the remaining 15 are from the United States. Not surprisingly therefore, the majority of the papers draw upon North American evidence for their subject matter. Perhaps the one substantive criticism which can be made of the volume presentation is that the papers are marshalled into an order which seems to have little logic attached to it. With the lack of a clear pattern which, for instance, might have resulted from the use of subdivisions of the material, a reader has to scan the entire contents before it is possible to assess the nature of the material included. It seems that the papers at the conference were presented in eight sessions and the retention of this structure in the book would have been to the benefit of the reader. Thus, the rather brief editorial introduction would have been more effective if expanded somewhat and split such that it served as an introduction to various groups of papers resulting in a better linkage between the elements. The contents may be outlined as follows:- Firstly H.B.S. Cooke describes borehole evidence from Hungary where thick fluvial sequences in the Carpathian Basin permit the recognition of numerous sedimentological and climatic cycles. Good agreement with the oceanic record is claimed. A group from INSTAAR led by J.T. Andrews considers marine faunal data from eastern Baffin Island and stress the paradox that extensive glaciation of the terrestrial environment is accompanied i


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by relatively warm water offshore in the Davis Strait. Problems with the application of the stratigraphic code are highlighted. It is suggested that future work should concentrate on cores from ice caps, the deep sea and lacustrine situation. T.N.V. Karlstrom presents an abstract but no text. Climatic changes during the Late Quaternary of the Aleutian Islands are discussed by R.F. Black using glacial geological evidence. He argues that the location and intensity of the Aleutian low is crucial to the determination of the climate. The effects of relief on microclimates are described by J.D. Jacobs and C.Y.Y. Leung in the context of Baffin Island. They emphasise the need to recall the spatial diversity associated with the present day environment before making conclusions regarding former paleoclimatic environments. A short review paper by A. Dreimanis considers till as a potential source of information derived from the sedimentary record on the land surface which prevailed before a glacial advance over an area. M.S. Kearney and B.H. Luckman combine 14 C and pollen analytical data to reconstruct late Wisconsin-early Holocene changes in the mountains of the Jasper National Park Alberta. In the driftless area of Wisconsin, J.C. Knox and others attempt a history of fluvial activity and allied vegetational and climatic changes for the Holocene. This kind of paleohydrological reconstruction from sedimentological evidence is an important departure from the norm. Using pollen and macro fossil evidence (including coleoptera) R.J. Mott and others present a lengthy paper which describes in great detail two sites in the Province of Quebec where sedimentation occurred at the borders of the Champlain Sea. They conclude with a late glacial vegetation and climatic reconstruction. Insect fossils are the sole focus of A.V. and A. Morgan's review of evidence from southern Ontario perraining to interglacial and interstadial sites. The value of this contribution is enhanced by their placing of the Ontario research in the context of the earlier pioneer work done in north west Europe, thereby giving a deeper perspective on recent advances in understanding the Canadian fossil faunas. Eight Pleistocene Saiga antelope fossil finds from North America are described by C.R. Harrington. These animals are useful paleoenvironmental indicators since they are well adapted to steppe grasslands with thin snow covers. Buried and relict paleosols from Colorado and Kenya are compared by the volume editor W.C. Mahaney with particular reference to their significance to pedogenic clay minerals which demand greater humidity for their formation than that which occurs at the study sites at the present day. It is therefore argued by Mahaney that such evidence may be used to infer climatic changes. A review by D.A. Fisher and R.M. Koerner of the Camp Century and Devon Island ice cores follows and is discussed primarily as a climatic record of the last 5 ka, but with an emphasis on the last 0.5 ka. They plead for an appreciation of the complexity of the climate-environment interplay and obviously the core records are not the paleoclimatic panaceas which some have been tempted to claim. In the only French language paper, C. Hillaire-Marcel and P. Page consider the stable isotopes within calcareous concretions which occur within a Wisconsin valve succession. They propose that the 18 O/~ 6 O changes reflect a 8°C range of temperature variability. In addition, they argue that such calcareous material may yield meaningful radiocarbon age estimates. Speleothems as archives of isotopic composition changes are comprehensively reviewed by R.S. Harmon. As is well known, the isotope record is capable of being taken as proxy data on climatic fluctuations and this summary of the state of the art is worthwhile. In the context of Ontarian pollen records extending back to 14 ka, J.H. McAndrews demonstrates that the present day zonal vegetation limits (this ranges from the tundra to deciduous forest within the provincial boundaries) parallel the trend of the mean annual temperature isotherms. This relationship permits the tracing of temperature changes from the vegetation response as recorded in six critical pollen diagrams. A rather similar theme is pursued by P.J.H. Richard who argues on the basis of ecologically diverse evidence from

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southern Quebec that the precise local vegetation cover should initially be reconstructed before any regional paleoclimatic reconstructions are attempted. By this approach the ensuing fuller understanding of the vegetation may identify non-climatic factors contributing to compositional changes which might otherwise be erroneously attributed to climate. Pollen sequences from Pre-Pinedale lake sediments in the Yellowstone National Park are discussed by R.G. Baker. Pollen signatures of interstadials both warm and cold and interglacials are identified. J.C. Ritchie uses a pollen record from the southern part of the Richardson Mountains in the Yukon as a basis for a discussion of the problems in interpreting the pollen diagram particularly in terms of the population dynamics as well as paleoenvironmental reconstruction. W.R. Farrand compares sedimentological sequences from the eastern Mediterranean archaeological sites in the light of previous paleoclimatological reconstruction in the region. He finds that the patterns discernible in the Levant do not readily correlate with those from the European Wisconsin. A paper by A. Roberts is concerned with Ontario Archaic and Paleo-Indian remains and the environmental context. The linkage with the paleoclimate theme is rather tenuous and a similarly weak link is evident in the last paper in the conference proceedings - a paper by G.A. Wright and S.A. Reeve on the north west Wyoming late Quaternary record and the associated archaeology. One has sympathy with their view that 'the relationship of climatic change to cultural change is complex'. The volume closes with a field guide by A.V. Morgan to the Don Valley Brickpit and Scarborough Bluff sections in eastern Toronto. Evidently the conference participants who had the stamina to sit out the entire meeting were rewarded with a final day in the fresh air whilst examining the classic sections at the above mentioned localities. Although no doubt the participants are glad to have an accessible and no doubt nostalgic record of their field experiences, one outsider has the feeling that this last account resides rather anomalously in the book particularly since the volume is rather bulky and not at all suitable for field use. Thus the scope of Quaternary Paleoclimate can be seen to be vast. Reflection reveals a virtual lack of any discussion of the deep sea record and since effectively some two-thirds of the earths record is ignored it is not unreasonable to suggest that the book's restriction to the continental or near shore record might be evident in the title. Few will read the book from cover to cover rather it is to be sampled as the occasion demands. Hence not many will be tempted to acquire personal copies but the work should be on the shelves of any library which has any claim to service Quaternary Science. Peter Worsley

University of Reading, Whiteknights, Reading, U.K.