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Paleoindian Societies of the Coastal Southeast$
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James S. Dunbar

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780813062686

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813062686.001.0001

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Climate Change

Climate Change

Chapter:
(p.121) 4 Climate Change
Source:
Paleoindian Societies of the Coastal Southeast
Author(s):

James S. Dunbar

Publisher:
University Press of Florida
DOI:10.5744/florida/9780813062686.003.0004

Climate is a context and a driver of habitat and resource availability. The specter of recent global warming aside, in the eighteenth and twentieth centuries we were accustomed to the relatively steady-state climate and environment of the modern Holocene. In the late Pleistocene, from about 50.0 ka years ago until about 10.3 ka years ago, climate shifted many times from glacial, to profoundly cold Heinrich, to modern warm modes. These climate shifts occurred over durations of hundreds of years and the changes that occurred between temporal points are known as climatic events. Some climate shifts took place on regional levels because of the unique circumstances of the earth’s regional topography. Other events were triggered by ocean-atmosphere interactions on a global scale. The late Pleistocene is recognized as a forty-thousand-year interval of unstable environments shaped by ever-changing climate. We have experienced nothing like it in human history. Counterintuitively, the Southeast Coastal Plain remained relatively warm and inviting, harboring animals intolerant of freezing temperatures. The Southeast was a warm thermal enclave in the late Pleistocene. Incredibly, freeze-intolerant species lived as far north as North Carolina, and, just north of that, full arctic-adapted species occupied Virginia. There appears to have been a thermal blanket in the Southeast, the Gulf Stream, and some type of as yet to be determined climate zonation that fended off freezing temperatures in the Southeast. By the beginning of the Holocene, the climate shifted in a way that we still do not fully understand. The extinction of great numbers of Pleistocene species took place in the Southeast just prior to the Holocene. Human populations, however, survived and adapted.

Keywords:   climate, glacial mode, Heinrich mode, modern mode, climatic events, ocean, atmosphere, interactions, thermal enclave, Gulf Stream, Holocene, Pleistocene

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