skip to main content


The NSF Public Access Repository (NSF-PAR) system and access will be unavailable from 5:00 PM ET until 11:00 PM ET on Friday, June 21 due to maintenance. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Search for: All records

Creators/Authors contains: "Sigl, Michael"

Note: When clicking on a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) number, you will be taken to an external site maintained by the publisher. Some full text articles may not yet be available without a charge during the embargo (administrative interval).
What is a DOI Number?

Some links on this page may take you to non-federal websites. Their policies may differ from this site.

  1. Common Era temperature variability has been a prominent component in Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports over the last several decades and was twice featured in their Summary for Policymakers. A single reconstruction of mean Northern Hemisphere temperature variability was first highlighted in the 2001 Summary for Policymakers, despite other estimates that existed at the time. Subsequent reports assessed many large-scale temperature reconstructions, but the entirety of Common Era temperature history in the most recent Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was restricted to a single estimate of mean annual global temperatures. We argue that this focus on a single reconstruction is an insufficient summary of our understanding of temperature variability over the Common Era. We provide a complementary perspective by offering an alternative assessment of the state of our understanding in high-resolution paleoclimatology for the Common Era and call for future reports to present a more accurate and comprehensive assessment of our knowledge about this important period of human and climate history. 
    more » « less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2025
  2. Abstract Black carbon emitted by incomplete combustion of fossil fuels and biomass has a net warming effect in the atmosphere and reduces the albedo when deposited on ice and snow; accurate knowledge of past emissions is essential to quantify and model associated global climate forcing. Although bottom-up inventories provide historical Black Carbon emission estimates that are widely used in Earth System Models, they are poorly constrained by observations prior to the late 20th century. Here we use an objective inversion technique based on detailed atmospheric transport and deposition modeling to reconstruct 1850 to 2000 emissions from thirteen Northern Hemisphere ice-core records. We find substantial discrepancies between reconstructed Black Carbon emissions and existing bottom-up inventories which do not fully capture the complex spatial-temporal emission patterns. Our findings imply changes to existing historical Black Carbon radiative forcing estimates are necessary, with potential implications for observation-constrained climate sensitivity. 
    more » « less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2024
  3. Abstract

    Chemical anomalies in polar ice core records are frequently linked to volcanism; however, without the presence of (crypto)tephra particles, links to specific eruptions remain speculative. Correlating tephras yields estimates of eruption timing and potential source volcano, offers refinement of ice core chronologies, and provides insights into volcanic impacts. Here, we report on sparse rhyolitic glass shards detected in the Roosevelt Island Climate Evolution (RICE) ice core (West Antarctica), attributed to the 1.8 ka Taupō eruption (New Zealand)—one of the largest and most energetic Holocene eruptions globally. Six shards of a distinctive geochemical composition, identical within analytical uncertainties to proximal Taupō glass, are accompanied by a single shard indistinguishable from glass of the ~25.5 ka Ōruanui supereruption, also from Taupō volcano. This double fingerprint uniquely identifies the source volcano and helps link the shards to the climactic phase of the Taupō eruption. The englacial Taupō-derived glass shards coincide with a particle spike and conductivity anomaly at 278.84 m core depth, along with trachytic glass from a local Antarctic eruption of Mt. Melbourne. The assessed age of the sampled ice is 230 ± 19 CE (95% confidence), confirming that the published radiocarbon wiggle-match date of 232 ± 10 CE (2 SD) for the Taupō eruption is robust.

    more » « less
  4. Abstract. The injection of sulfur into the stratosphere by volcanic eruptions is thedominant driver of natural climate variability oninterannual to multidecadal timescales. Based on a set of continuous sulfateand sulfur records from a suite of ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica,the HolVol v.1.0 database includes estimates of the magnitudes andapproximate source latitudes of major volcanic stratospheric sulfurinjection (VSSI) events for the Holocene (from 9500 BCE or 11 500 years BP to1900 CE), constituting an extension of the previous record by 7000 years.The database incorporates new-generation ice-core aerosol records with asub-annual temporal resolution and a demonstrated sub-decadal dating accuracyand precision. By tightly aligning and stacking the ice-core records on theWD2014 chronology from Antarctica, we resolve long-standing inconsistenciesin the dating of ancient volcanic eruptions that arise from biased (i.e.,dated too old) ice-core chronologies over the Holocene for Greenland. Wereconstruct a total of 850 volcanic eruptions with injections in excess of 1 teragram of sulfur (Tg S); of these eruptions, 329 (39 %) are located in the low latitudes with bipolarsulfate deposition, 426 (50 %) are located in the Northern Hemisphere extratropics (NHET) and 88 (10 %) are located in the Southern Hemisphere extratropics (SHET). The spatial distribution of the reconstructed eruption locationsis in agreement with prior reconstructions for the past 2500 years. Intotal, these eruptions injected 7410 Tg S into thestratosphere: 70 % from tropical eruptions and 25 % from NHextratropical eruptions. A long-term latitudinally and monthly resolvedstratospheric aerosol optical depth (SAOD) time series is reconstructed fromthe HolVol VSSI estimates, representing the first Holocene-scalereconstruction constrained by Greenland and Antarctica ice cores. These newlong-term reconstructions of past VSSI and SAOD variability confirm evidencefrom regional volcanic eruption chronologies (e.g., from Iceland) in showingthat the Early Holocene (9500–7000 BCE) experienced a higher number ofvolcanic eruptions (+16 %) and cumulative VSSI (+86 %) compared withthe past 2500 years. This increase coincides with the rapid retreat of icesheets during deglaciation, providing context for potential future increasesin volcanic activity in regions under projected glacier melting in the 21stcentury. The reconstructed VSSI and SAOD data are available at (Sigl et al., 2021). 
    more » « less
  5. Abstract. Volcanic fallout in polar ice sheets provides important opportunities to date and correlate ice-core records as well as to investigate theenvironmental impacts of eruptions. Only the geochemical characterization of volcanic ash (tephra) embedded in the ice strata can confirm the sourceof the eruption, however, and is a requisite if historical eruption ages are to be used as valid chronological checks on annual ice layercounting. Here we report the investigation of ash particles in a Greenland ice core that are associated with a volcanic sulfuric acid layer previouslyattributed to the 79 CE eruption of Vesuvius. Major and trace element composition of the particles indicates that the tephra does not derive fromVesuvius but most likely originates from an unidentified eruption in the Aleutian arc. Using ash dispersal modeling, we find that only an eruptionlarge enough to include stratospheric injection is likely to account for the sizable (24–85 µm) ash particles observed in the Greenlandice at this time. Despite its likely explosivity, this event does not appear to have triggered significant climate perturbations, unlike some otherlarge extratropical eruptions. In light of a recent re-evaluation of the Greenland ice-core chronologies, our findings further challenge the previousassignation of this volcanic event to 79 CE. We highlight the need for the revised Common Era ice-core chronology to be formally accepted by the widerice-core and climate modeling communities in order to ensure robust age linkages to precisely dated historical and paleoclimate proxy records. 
    more » « less
  6. Abstract State or societal collapses are often described as featuring rapid reductions in socioeconomic complexity, population loss or displacement, and/or political discontinuity, with climate thought to contribute mainly by disrupting a society’s agroecological base. Here we use a state-of-the-art multi-ice-core reconstruction of explosive volcanism, representing the dominant global external driver of severe short-term climatic change, to reveal a systematic association between eruptions and dynastic collapse across two millennia of Chinese history. We next employ a 1,062-year reconstruction of Chinese warfare as a proxy for political and socioeconomic stress to reveal the dynamic role of volcanic climatic shocks in collapse. We find that smaller shocks may act as the ultimate cause of collapse at times of high pre-existing stress, whereas larger shocks may act with greater independence as proximate causes without substantial observed pre-existing stress. We further show that post-collapse warfare tends to diminish rapidly, such that collapse itself may act as an evolved adaptation tied to the influential “mandate of heaven” concept in which successive dynasties could claim legitimacy as divinely sanctioned mandate holders, facilitating a more rapid restoration of social order. 
    more » « less
  7. Abstract. The mid-17th century is characterized by a clusterof explosive volcanic eruptions in the 1630s and 1640s, climatic conditionsculminating in the Maunder Minimum, and political instability andfamine in regions of western and northern Europe as well as China and Japan. This contribution investigates the sources of the eruptions of the 1630s and 1640s and their possible impact on contemporary climate using ice core, tree-ring, and historical evidence but will also look into thesocio-political context in which they occurred and the human responses theymay have triggered. Three distinct sulfur peaks are found in the Greenlandice core record in 1637, 1641–1642, and 1646. In Antarctica, only oneunambiguous sulfate spike is recorded, peaking in 1642. The resultingbipolar sulfur peak in 1641–1642 can likely be ascribed to the eruption ofMount Parker (6∘ N, Philippines) on 26 December 1640, but sulfateemitted from Komaga-take (42∘ N, Japan) volcano on 31 July 1641has potentially also contributed to the sulfate concentrations observed inGreenland at this time. The smaller peaks in 1637 and 1646 can bepotentially attributed to the eruptions of Hekla (63∘ N, Iceland)and Shiveluch (56∘ N, Russia), respectively. To date, however,none of the candidate volcanoes for the mid-17th century sulfate peakshave been confirmed with tephra preserved in ice cores. Tree-ring andwritten sources point to cold conditions in the late 1630s and early 1640sin various parts of Europe and to poor harvests. Yet the early 17thcentury was also characterized by widespread warfare across Europe – and in particular the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648) – rendering any attribution of socio-economic crisis to volcanism challenging. In China and Japan, historical sources point to extreme droughts and famines starting in 1638 (China) and 1640 (Japan), thereby preceding the eruptions of Komaga-take (31 July 1640) and Mount Parker (4 January 1641). The case of the eruptioncluster between 1637 and 1646 and the climatic and societal conditionsrecorded in its aftermath thus offer a textbook example of difficulties in(i) unambiguously distinguishing volcanically induced cooling, wetting, ordrying from natural climate variability and (ii) attributing politicalinstability, harvest failure, and famines solely to volcanic climaticimpacts. This example shows that while the impacts of past volcanism mustalways be studied within the contemporary socio-economic contexts, it isalso time to move past reductive framings and sometimes reactionaryoppositional stances in which climate (and environment more broadly) eitheris or is not deemed an important contributor to major historical events. 
    more » « less
  8. null (Ed.)
    Abstract. Volcanic eruptions are a key source of climatic variability, andreconstructing their past impact can improve our understanding of theoperation of the climate system and increase the accuracy of future climateprojections. Two annually resolved and independently dated palaeoarchives –tree rings and polar ice cores – can be used in tandem to assess thetiming, strength and climatic impact of volcanic eruptions over the past∼ 2500 years. The quantification of post-volcanic climateresponses, however, has at times been hampered by differences betweensimulated and observed temperature responses that raised questions regardingthe robustness of the chronologies of both archives. While manychronological mismatches have been resolved, the precise timing and climaticimpact of two major sulfate-emitting volcanic eruptions during the 1450s CE, including the largest atmospheric sulfate-loading event in the last 700 years, have not been constrained. Here we explore this issue through acombination of tephrochronological evidence and high-resolution ice-corechemistry measurements from a Greenland ice core, the TUNU2013 record. We identify tephra from the historically dated 1477 CE eruption of theIcelandic Veiðivötn–Bárðarbunga volcanic system in directassociation with a notable sulfate peak in TUNU2013 attributed to thisevent, confirming that this peak can be used as a reliable and precisetime marker. Using seasonal cycles in several chemical elements and 1477 CEas a fixed chronological point shows that ages of 1453 CE and 1458 CE can beattributed, with high precision, to the start of two other notablesulfate peaks. This confirms the accuracy of a recent Greenland ice-corechronology over the middle to late 15th century and corroborates thefindings of recent volcanic reconstructions from Greenland and Antarctica.Overall, this implies that large-scale Northern Hemisphere climatic coolingaffecting tree-ring growth in 1453 CE was caused by a Northern Hemispherevolcanic eruption in 1452 or early 1453 CE, and then a Southern Hemisphereeruption, previously assumed to have triggered the cooling, occurred laterin 1457 or 1458 CE. The direct attribution of the 1477 CE sulfate peak to the eruption ofVeiðivötn, one of the most explosive from Iceland in the last 1200 years, also provides the opportunity to assess the eruption's climaticimpact. A tree-ring-based reconstruction of Northern Hemisphere summertemperatures shows a cooling in the aftermath of the eruption of −0.35 ∘C relative to a 1961–1990 CE reference period and−0.1 ∘C relative to the 30-year period around the event, as well as arelatively weak and spatially incoherent climatic response in comparison tothe less explosive but longer-lasting Icelandic Eldgjá 939 CE and Laki1783 CE eruptions. In addition, the Veiðivötn 1477 CE eruptionoccurred around the inception of the Little Ice Age and could be used as achronostratigraphic marker to constrain the phasing and spatial variabilityof climate changes over this transition if it can be traced in moreregional palaeoclimatic archives. 
    more » « less
  9. Abstract

    Snowpack emissions are recognized as an important source of gas‐phase reactive bromine in the Arctic and are necessary to explain ozone depletion events in spring caused by the catalytic destruction of ozone by halogen radicals. Quantifying bromine emissions from snowpack is essential for interpretation of ice‐core bromine. We present ice‐core bromine records since the pre‐industrial (1750 CE) from six Arctic locations and examine potential post‐depositional loss of snowpack bromine using a global chemical transport model. Trend analysis of the ice‐core records shows that only the high‐latitude coastal Akademii Nauk (AN) ice core from the Russian Arctic preserves significant trends since pre‐industrial times that are consistent with trends in sea ice extent and anthropogenic emissions from source regions. Model simulations suggest that recycling of reactive bromine on the snow skin layer (top 1 mm) results in 9–17% loss of deposited bromine across all six ice‐core locations. Reactive bromine production from below the snow skin layer and within the snow photic zone is potentially more important, but the magnitude of this source is uncertain. Model simulations suggest that the AN core is most likely to preserve an atmospheric signal compared to five Greenland ice cores due to its high latitude location combined with a relatively high snow accumulation rate. Understanding the sources and amount of photochemically reactive snow bromide in the snow photic zone throughout the sunlit period in the high Arctic is essential for interpreting ice‐core bromine, and warrants further lab studies and field observations at inland locations.

    more » « less