A chrysophyte stomatocyst-based reconstruction of cold-season air temperature from Alpine Lake Silvaplana (AD 1500–2003); methods and concepts for quantitative inferences

de Jong, Rixt; Kamenik, Christian; Westover, Karlyn; Grosjean, Martin (2013). A chrysophyte stomatocyst-based reconstruction of cold-season air temperature from Alpine Lake Silvaplana (AD 1500–2003); methods and concepts for quantitative inferences. Journal of Paleolimnology, 50(4), pp. 519-533. Springer Netherlands 10.1007/s10933-013-9743-5

art%3A10.1007%2Fs10933-013-9743-5.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Publisher holds Copyright.

Download (716kB) | Preview

Relatively little is known about past cold-season temperature variability in high-Alpine regions because of a lack of natural cold-season temperature proxies as well as under-representation of high-altitude sites in meteorological, early-instrumental and documentary data sources. Recent studies have shown that chrysophyte stomatocysts, or simply cysts (sub-fossil algal remains of Chrysophyceae and Synurophyceae), are among the very few natural proxies that can be used to reconstruct cold-season temperatures. This study presents a quantitative, high-resolution (5-year), cold-season (Oct–May) temperature reconstruction based on sub-fossil chrysophyte stomatocysts in the annually laminated (varved) sediments of high-Alpine Lake Silvaplana, SE Switzerland (1,789 m a.s.l.), since AD 1500. We first explore the method used to translate an ecologically meaningful variable based on a biological proxy into a simple climate variable. A transfer function was applied to reconstruct the ‘date of spring mixing’ from cyst assemblages. Next, statistical regression models were tested to convert the reconstructed ‘dates of spring mixing’ into cold-season surface air temperatures with associated errors. The strengths and weaknesses of this approach are thoroughly tested. One much-debated, basic assumption for reconstructions (‘stationarity’), which states that only the environmental variable of interest has influenced cyst assemblages and the influence of confounding variables is negligible over time, is addressed in detail. Our inferences show that past cold-season air-temperature fluctuations were substantial and larger than those of other temperature reconstructions for Europe and the Alpine region. Interestingly, in this study, recent cold-season temperatures only just exceed those of previous, multi-decadal warm phases since AD 1500. These findings highlight the importance of local studies to assess natural climate variability at high altitudes.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > Physical Geography > Unit Paleolimnology
10 Strategic Research Centers > Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR)
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography

UniBE Contributor:

de Jong, Rixt, Kamenik, Christian, Grosjean, Martin


500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology
900 History > 910 Geography & travel




Springer Netherlands




Monika Wälti-Stampfli

Date Deposited:

17 Jan 2014 09:21

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:27

Publisher DOI:






Actions (login required)

Edit item Edit item
Provide Feedback