Exotic pollen as an indicator of variable atmospheric circulation over the Labrador Sea region during the mid to late Holocene

Catherine A. Jessen, Sandrine Solignac, Niels Nørgaard-Pedersen, Naja Mikkelsen, Antoon Kuijpers, Marit-Solveig Seidenkrantz

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38 Citations (Scopus)


Variability in the abundance of exotic (non-native) pollen in sediment cores has long been considered as a potential proxy for changing atmospheric circulation, but the difficulty of gaining sufficient total exotic pollen and the incomplete understanding of atmospheric pollen transport patterns has hindered its application. In light of recent advances in the study of pollen transport, we present an exotic pollen record from two fjord sediment cores taken from the west (Placentia Bay, Newfoundland) and east (Narsaq Sund, Greenland) Labrador Sea as a basis for studying variations in regional atmospheric circulation. The two cores cover the last ca. 5500 years and indicate a shift in dominant spring/summer air masses at ca. 2000 (southern Greenland) and 3000 cal a BP (Newfoundland) transporting reduced concentrations of pollen from southerly and south-westerly vegetation zones. This may suggest a shift away from more dominantly zonal atmospheric circulation (a feature of positive North Atlantic Oscillation years) to more frequent meridional circulation. These results support sea ice/sea-surface temperature proxy reconstructions from Newfoundland, investigated as part of the same project, which also suggest increased winter atmospheric circulation during the early part of the time period studied. In this region, more positive North Atlantic Oscillation years, and therefore more zonal atmospheric circulation, are associated with increased atmospheric circulation in both the winter and the summer seasons.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)286-296
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Quaternary Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011


  • Atmospheric circulation
  • Exotic pollen
  • Fjord sediments
  • Labrador Sea
  • Late Holocene
  • North Atlantic Oscillation

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 5: Nature and Climate


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