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The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton

Research project: Holocene climate variability and environmental change from sediments of Windermere, UK

Currently Active: 

This project is a palaeolimnological multi-proxy reconstruction of the climate and environment of North West England, from the Greenland stadial 1 (Younger Dryas) - Holocene transition, through to the present day

The Holocene (c.11,700 Yrs B.P. – Present day) is a period of relative climate stability, punctuated by abrupt climate events ( e.g. 8.2 Ky event), and centennial scale variability (e.g. Little Ice Age). It provides a unique example of major anthropogenic impact on the environment and climate.

Studying the climate and environment of the Holocene provides information to help plan for and predict future climate change and environment pressure. However, climate and environmental data only cover the past 200 years and so proxies are need to complete the record through the Holocene.

Lake sediments studies (palaeolimnology) allow for a high resolution of seasonal to decadal multi-proxy approach to climate and environmental reconstruction. This project uses new sediment cores from Windermere, Lake District National Park, which provide an intermittently laminated sediment record extending from G-S 1 to the present day.

As yet no annual- through decadal- scale climate and environmental reconstruction for the Holocene exists for the U.K. mainland.

A proxy record here is of international significance because the climate is influenced by globally important Atlantic climate systems. It also lies between the well-established climate proxy records of Greenland and Central Europe which show diachroneity of the timing of major climate events such as the 8.2 ky.

An environmental proxy record would also aid in understanding environmental response to climate change in a modern setting, and provide catchment reference condition to assist with now statutory water quality and catchment restoration.

Project aims:

  • Decadal resolution reconstruct of the Holocene climate and environment of the Windermere catchment.
  • Assess the timing of climate and environmental response of Holocene climate events centennial climate shifts.
  • Assess the impact that Humans have had on the environment of the Windermere catchment with a focus on recent industrial era activity.


  • Scanning Electron Microscopy, X-radiography, and thin section microscopy.
  • μm-scale ITRAX XRF. The focus on changes in indicators of terrigenous input (Ti, K), redox conditions (Mn:Fe), heavy metals (Pb, Zn and Cu).
  • Chironomid inferred mean July air temperature.
  • Other methods; diatoms inferred lake environmental reconstruction (Barker, Lancaster), Nitrogen and carbon Isotope based environmental reconstructions (Lang, BGS) and pollen based lake catchment flora reconstruction.
  • Chronology: bulk sediment and sub fossil radiocarbon dating, Cs137 and Pb 210 radioisotopes and PSV curve.

Related Associated Projects

Key Contacts:

Mr James Fielding (PhD student)

Professor Alan Kemp

Professor Jon Bull

Dr Carol Cotterill, Marine and Coastal Geoscientist, BGS

Dr Peter Langdon

Miss Rachael Avery

Dr Richard Pearce

Dr Helen Miller

PhDs and Other Opportunities


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