Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Philip van Beynen, Ph.D.


Paleoclimate, Caves, Florida, Stable isotopes, Holocene


Understanding the paleoclimate of a region is important, especially when trying to determine the extent of natural climate variability within the context of anthropogenic impacts. Recent anomalous periods of climate change in the Late Holocene, including the Little Ice Age and Medieval Warm Period, could possibly repeat in the future, having significant worldwide consequences. This holds especially true for tropical and subtropical karst environments, where limited paleoclimate proxies provide minimal data regarding past climate change. An investigation into past climate change in Belize using fulvic acids from cave sediments shows periods of drought during the collapse of the Maya society around 1400 years ago. Comparison of changes in the carbon isotope data from the fulvic acids agree with speleothem records, but more closely reflect changes in the vegetation above the cave, showing Maya population decline through waning agriculture.

Further investigation of using fulvic and other organics acids are examined from cave sediments in Florida. The data show fulvic acid carbon isotopes are the most robust recorders of climate change, agreeing with several nearby speleothem d¹8O and d¹³C records from west-central Florida. A more detailed record of climate change in Florida through a calibration study of precipitation and cave dripwater oxygen and hydrogen isotopes revealed that the amount effect dominates rainfall in west-central Florida. Homogenization of epikarst dripwater gives average d¹8O values representative of the annual amount-weighted average of precipitation d¹8O for the area, suggesting speleothem isotope records reflect changes in rainfall amount. Examination of two speleothems from west-central Florida show complex teleconnection and solar forcing mechanisms responsible for past climate changes.

A high-resolution stable isotope, trace element, and time series analysis study for the last 1500 years shows variability during the LIA and MWP, pointing to a combined influence of Pacific and Atlantic teleconnection mechanisms, especially the ITCZ, NAO and PDO, being responsible for precipitation variability. Long-term reconstruction of the mid-Holocene and Late Pleistocene from another speleothem reveals differences in temperature and precipitation between glacial and interglacial conditions in Florida. Climate proxies from the tropics and subtropics provide additional clues to global climate change crucial to understanding future water availability.