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Intra-continental Reconstruction of the North Atlantic Oscillation using Stalagmite Isotopes and Trace Elements


The North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) is the Northern Hemisphere’s dominant mode of atmospheric variation. It is the most significant driver of European climate and weather but the profound impact of NAO on society, economy, environment, and ecology cannot be assessed because we do not know how it has varied over long timescales and which factors drive its variation over both short and long timescales. Does the NAO fluctuate only in response to natural drivers or does its unprecedented shift since the 1970’s reflect anthropogenic forcing? Available instrumental, documentary and proxy-based reconstructions are too short to resolve a low-frequency NAO component. Therefore, we cannot (i) determine the cause of 0.7 – 1.0 °C warming during the past 150 years, (ii) predict the magnitude and rate of global warming as atmospheric ‘greenhouse’ gas concentrations increase, and (iii) validate hindcasting of atmosphere-ocean global climate models as a first step to their use as accurate forecasters of future NAO activity. These three issues are vital to mitigate NAO-induced climate and weather risks upon the socio-economic sustainability of Europe. Stalagmite chemistry provides an ideal test of NAO influence on European climate. Isotope and trace element variations preserve high-frequency records of past precipitation in seasonal growth lamina. Growth over many millennia also records low-frequency climate change. Recent stalagmite records from Germany and Austria suggest stalagmite climate proxies (oxygen isotope ratios) correlate strongly with solar irradiation. Our Polish site is ideal to test this hypothesis because we have shown that the NAO is the primary control of oxygen isotope ratios of precipitation in this area (Baldini et al., in review). INSITE will develop an innovative combination of stalagmite palaeoclimate proxies from this site to determine how natural and anthropogenic forcing influence high- and low-frequency NAO variation.

Field of science

  • /natural sciences/earth and related environmental sciences/atmospheric sciences/climatology/climatic changes/north atlantic oscillation
  • /natural sciences/earth and related environmental sciences/geochemistry/isotope geochemistry
  • /natural sciences/earth and related environmental sciences/atmospheric sciences/climatology

Call for proposal

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Funding Scheme

MC-IEF - Intra-European Fellowships (IEF)


Stockton Road The Palatine Centre
DH1 3LE Durham
United Kingdom
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 177 173,03
Administrative Contact
Colin Macpherson (Dr.)