Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only

Degree Name

Bachelors of Science (BS)




Nicholas Balascio

Committee Members

Heather Macdonald

Christopher Hein


The Faroe Islands are located in the North Atlantic Ocean where climate is influenced by major oceanic and atmospheric circulation patterns. Paleoclimate records from the region provide important perspectives on the long term variability of these regional climate system components. The Faroe Islands also have an interesting history of human colonization, which likely did not occur until the mid-first millennium AD. This study reconstructs Holocene paleoenvironmental conditions during the past 8000 cal yr BP in the Faroe Islands based on analysis of a 327 cm sediment record from Lake Sandsvatn, located along the coast of Sandoy. Geochemical and physical analyses of sediments were used to infer the timing and impact of past climate and environmental changes. The base of the record contains coarse sediment with shell fragments and other geochemical characteristics that indicate a marine overwash deposit, attributed to a tsunami originating off the western coast of Norway c. 8000 cal yr BP. Sedimentation over the last 8000 years is highly variable, reflecting a high energy coastal environment impacted by high winds and storms that deliver and rework coarse sediment. Results show an increase in variability during the mid- to late Holocene, likely in response to a decrease in insolation and change in regional atmospheric circulation. Approximately 1600 years ago, the record is characterized by a distinct increase in terrestrial organic matter that likely marks a period of landscape disturbance due to initial human colonization, supporting other evidence for occupation 300-500 years earlier than commonly recognized. Overall, this paleoenvironmental record provides an improved understanding of North Atlantic climate fluctuations and a better assessment of the characteristics of early human landscape disturbance.

On-Campus Access Only