US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in Quaternary Science Reviews 20 (2001) 41-61.


The last interglacial period is thought to be the last time global climate was signi"cantly warmer than present. New stratigraphic studies at Eva Creek, near Fairbanks, Alaska indicate a complex last interglacial record wherein periods of loess deposition alternated with periods of soil formation. The Eva Forest Bed appears to have formed about the time of or after deposition of the Old Crow tephra (dated to ~ 160 to ~ 120 ka), and is therefore correlated with the last interglacial period. Pollen, macrofossils, and soils from the Eva Forest Bed indicate that boreal forest was the dominant vegetation and precipitation may have been greater than present around Fairbanks during the peak of the last interglacial period. A new compilation of last interglacial localities indicates that boreal forest was extensive over interior Alaska and Yukon Territory. Boreal forest also extended beyond its present range onto the Seward and Baldwin Peninsulas, and probably migrated to higher elevations, now occupied by tundra, in the interior. Comparison of last interglacial pollen and macrofossil data with atmospheric general circulation model results shows both agreement and disagreement. Model results of warmer-than-present summers are in agreement with fossil data. However, numerous localities with boreal forest records are in conflict with model reconstructions of an extensive cool steppe in interior Alaska and much of Yukon Territory during the last interglacial.