Holocene changes in seasonal precipitation highlighted by fire incidence in eastern Canada

  • Carcaillet C
  • Richard P
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Postglacial fire history has been reconstructed for eastern Canada from charcoal-influx anomalies from 30 sites taken from a lacustrine charcoal database. The reconstruction exhibits coherent patterns of fire occurrence in space and time. The early Holocene is characterised by high fire incidence. There is a major change to much lower occurrence slightly after 8 ka BP. A return to more fire appears after 3 ka BP. This sequence does not fit with the hydro-climatic reconstruction deduced from lake level reconstructions for northeastern North America, which indicates a dry early and mid-Holocene, and a wet late-Holocene. Fire occurrence however closely matches summer relative humidity inferred from delta(18)O. The differences between fire frequency and lake level history, are due to changes in the seasonality of precipitation and drought frequency. Lake levels are essentially controlled by winter precipitation while summer precipitation controls fire occurrence. The early Holocene before 8-7.5 ka BP experienced dry summers due to higher solar radiation and dry adiabatic winds from the residual Laurentide Ice Sheet. The middle Holocene was dominated by wet summers due to stability of the Atlantic air mass over eastern Canada. After 2.5 ka BP, summers became drier, albeit not as fire-conducive as during the early Holocene. Late-Holocene summers conducive to fire are explained by more frequent incursions of dry Cool Pacific or Cold Arctic air masses over eastern Canada.

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  • C. Carcaillet

  • P. J. H.. Richard

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