Thursday, May 31, 2012

New paper shows Wyoming was warmer 6,000 years ago than the present

A paper published today in The Holocene finds that the elevation of the treeline in the Rocky Mountains of Wyoming was higher than the present from ~9000 to 6000 years ago, indicating the climate was warmer during that period as compared to present temperatures. The paper adds to thousands of others indicating that the current warming period is not unprecedented nor unusual compared to natural warming in the past.

A 15,000 year record of vegetation and climate change from a treeline lake in the Rocky Mountains, Wyoming, USA
  1. Scott Mensing1
  2. John Korfmacher2
  3. Thomas Minckley3
  4. Robert Musselman2
  1. 1University of Nevada, USA
  2. 2United States Forest Service, USA
  3. 3University of Wyoming, USA
  1. Scott Mensing, University of Nevada, Geography, 201 Mackay Science Hall, Reno 89557, USA.


Future climate projections predict warming at high elevations that will impact treeline species, but complex topographic relief in mountains complicates ecologic response, and we have a limited number of long-term studies examining vegetation change related to climate. In this study, pollen and conifer stomata were analyzed from a 2.3 m sediment core extending to 15,330 cal. yr BP recovered from a treeline lake in the Rocky Mountains of Wyoming. Both pollen and stomata record a sequence of vegetation and climate change similar in most respects to other regional studies, with sagebrush steppe and lowered treeline during the Late Pleistocene, rapid upward movement of treeline beginning about 11,500 cal. yr BP, treeline above modern between ~9000 and 6000 cal. yr BP, and then moving downslope ~5000 cal. yr BP, reaching modern limits by ~3000 cal. yr BP. Between 6000 and 5000 cal. yr BP sediments become increasingly organic and sedimentation rates increase. We interpret this as evidence for lower lake levels during an extended dry period with warmer summer temperatures and treeline advance. The complex topography of the Rocky Mountains makes it challenging to identify regional patterns associated with short term climatic variability, but our results contribute to gaining a better understanding of past ecologic responses at high elevation sites.


  1. Another nice find. Keep up the good work!