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Geophysical and sedimentary records from five lakes in Massachusetts reveal regionally coherent hydrologic variability during the Holocene. All of the lakes have risen since ∼9.0 ka, but multicentury droughts after 5.6 ka repeatedly lowered their water levels. Quantified water level histories from the three best-studied lakes share ≥70% of their reconstructed variance. Four prominent low-water phases at 4.9-4.6, 4.2-3.9, 2.9-2.1, and 1.3-1.2 ka were synchronous across coastal lakes, even after accounting for age uncertainties. The droughts also affected sites up to ∼200 km inland, but water level changes at 5.6-4.9 ka appear out of phase between inland and coastal lakes. During the enhanced multicentury variability after ∼5.6 ka, droughts coincided with cooling in Greenland and may indicate circulation changes across the North Atlantic region. Overall, the records demonstrate that current water levels are exceptionally high and confirm the sensitivity of water resources in the northeast U.S. to climate change.

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Geophysical Research Letters




An edited version of this paper was published by AGU. Copyright 2014 American Geophysical Union. To view the published open abstract, go to and enter the DOI.