Understanding the climate system and the natural processes that lead to its changes is fundamental when trying to evaluate and assess the human influence on climate variability. Human activities characterised most of the Holocene time period, so that palaeoclimate sequences of the last 8,000 years recorded both climate change and human impact. In order to study natural climate variability, we have to investigate past interglacial climate records, when human impact was none.
Amongst many palaeoclimate archives, lacustrine varved sequences are invaluable records that allow high resolution palaeoclimate reconstruction.
The interglacial lake deposits of Piànico (Southern Alps) consist of ca 15,500 biochemically precipitated calcite varves. The goal of my research is the sedimentological, geochemical and isotopical study at seasonal/decadal resolution of climate variability as recorded in this sequence.
The chronology obtained from varve counting constitutes a floating chronology of an interglacial period; the recovery of two tephra layers allowed to fix the floating chronology to the interglacial centred at 400 ka BP, thus corresponding to MIS 11.
I studied the upper 5,900 varves at seasonal resolution, using a multi proxy approach. The thickness of summer layers is the proxy for productivity and spring-summer temperature, whereas detrital layers indicate extreme precipitation events; δ18O has been used as a proxy for temperature and/or air masses circulation. I developed a new sampling technique for isotope analyses, in order to ensure the sampling of endogenic calcite, avoiding detrital contamination; this method also allowed me to quantify the effect of Triassic dolomite in bulk carbonate samples. The 15.5 ka of interglacial conditions in Piànico are characterised by short-term climate change.
At least four rapid climatic oscillations and a climatic deterioration at the very end of the 15,500 years are recorded. The main climatic oscillation is a 1000 years long cold period that took place after ca 10,000 years of interglacial conditions. This type of climate oscillation has not been recorded in the Holocene yet. This implies that, so
far, the Holocene has not experienced all the possible range of interglacial climate changes.