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Nicholas Balascio

Associate Professor of Geology

Office: McGlothlin-Street Hall 304
Email: [[nbalascio]]
Office Phone: 757 221 2880
Research Areas: Paleoclimatology, Global Climate Change, Arctic Environmental Change, Paleolimnology, Glacial Geology

  • Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University
  • Ph.D., University of Massachusetts-Amherst
  • M.S., Northern Arizona University
  • B.S., Union College
Research Interests

Paleoclimatology, Global Climate Change, Arctic Environmental Change, Paleolimnology, Glacial Geology

My research interests are in paleoclimatology, the study of geologic archives to understand past variations in Earth's climate.  I am interested in understanding the natural variability of the climate system during the Quaternary Period and on how the magnitude and timing of past climate changes compare to modern observations.  My work focuses on the collection and analysis of terrestrial sedimentary records, primarily lake sediments, and I use a variety of sedimentological, biogeochemical, and mico-analytical techniques to interpret these records.  These data are used to generate high-resolution climate and environmental reconstructions, which address questions related to past climate variability as well as sea-level change, glacial history, and human-environment interactions.  The majority of my research has been conducted in the Arctic and has involved fieldwork in remote regions of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Norway.

  • High-resolution lake sediment reconstructions of High Arctic climate variability
  • Stable isotope analysis of leaf wax biomarkers to reconstruct past hydroclimate changes
  • Isolation of volcanic ash from sediments to advance applications of tephrochronology
  • Paleoenvironmental perspectives on human-environmental interactions

*denotes undergraduate author, †denotes postdoctoral fellow

Balascio, N.L., D’Andrea, W.J., Creel, R.C., *Marshall, L., *Dia, M., Wickler, S., Anderson, R.S., Austermann, J., Vasskog, K., Nielson, P.R., Dahl, S.O. (in press) Refining Holocene sea-level dynamics for the Lofoten and Vesterålen archipelagos, northern Norway: Implications for prehistoric human-environment interactions. Journal of Quaternary Science.

*Topness, R., †Vachula, R.S, Balascio, N.L., D’Andrea, W.J., *Puglsey, G., *Dia, M., Curtin, L., Wickler, S., Anderson, R.S. (2023) Northern Norway paleofire records reveal two distinct phases of early human impacts on fire activity. The Holocene 33: 1304-1316.

*Frank-DePue, L., †Vachula, R.S., Balascio, N.L., *Cahoon, K., Kaste, J.M., (2023) Trends in sedimentary charcoal shapes correspond with broad-scale land use changes: insights gained from a 300-year lake sediment record from eastern Virginia, USA. Journal of Paleolimnology 69: 21-36.

Creel, R.C., Austermann, J., Khan, N.S., D’Andrea, W.J., Balascio, N.L., Dyer, B., Ashe, E., Menke, W. (2022) Postglacial relative sea level change in Norway. Quaternary Science Reviews  282:107422.

†Vachula, R.S., Karp, A.T., Denis, E.H, Balascio, N.L., Canuel, E.A., Huang, Y. (2022) Spatially calibrating polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) as proxies of area burned by vegetation fires: insights from comparisons of historical data and sedimentary PAH fluxes. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology  596: 110995.

Curtin, L., D’Andrea, W.J., Balascio, N.L., Shirazi, S., Shapiro, B., de Wet, G.A., Bradley, R.S., Bakke, J. (2021) Sedimentary DNA and molecular evidence for early human occupation of the Faroe Islands. Communications Earth and Environment 2:253.

Lapointe, F., Bradley, R.S., Francus, P.,  Balascio, N.L., Abbot, M., Stoner, J., St-Onge, G., de Coninck, A., Labarre, T. (2020) Annually resolved Atlantic sea-surface temperature variability over the past 2900 years. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: 202014166. 

Balascio, N.L., Anderson, R.S., D’Andrea, W.J., Wickler, S., D’Andrea, R., Bakke, J. (2020) Vegetation changes and plant wax biomarkers from an ombrotrophic bog define hydroclimate trends and human-environment interactions during the Holocene in northern Norway. The Holocene 30: 1849-1865. 

Curtin, L., D’Andrea, W.J., Balascio, N.L., *Pugsley, G., de Wet, G., Bradley, R.S. (2019). Holocene and Last Interglacial climate of the Faroe Islands from sedimentary plant wax hydrogen and carbon isotopes. Quaternary Science Reviews 223: 105930.

Lapointe, F., Francus, P., Stoner, J., Abbott, M., Balascio, N.L., Cook, T.L., Bradley, R.S., Forman, S., Besonen, M., St-Onge, G. (2019) Chronology and sedimentology of a new 2.9 ka annually laminated record from South Sawtooth Lake, Ellesmere Island. Quaternary Science Reviews 222: 105875

Muschitiello, F., D’Andrea, W.J., Schmittner, A., Heaton, T.J., Balascio, N.L., deRoberts, N., Caffee, M.W., Woodruff, T.E., Welten, K.C., Skinner, L., Simon, M., Dokken, T.M. (2019) Deep-water circulation changes lead North Atlantic climate during deglaciation. Nature Communications 10: 1271.

Balascio, N.L., Kaste, J.M., *Meyer, M.G., *Renshaw, M., *Smith, K., Chambers, R.M. (2019) A high-resolution mill pond record from eastern Virginia reveals the impact of past landscape changes and regional pollution history. The Anthropocene 25: 1-14.

Oppedal, L.T., van der Bilt, W.G.M., Balascio, N.L., Bakke, J. (2018) Patagonian ash on sub-Antarctic South Georgia: expanding the tephrostratigraphy of southern South America into the Southern Ocean. Journal of Quaternary Science 33: 482-486. 

Balascio, N.L., D'Andrea, W.J., Anderson, R.S., Wickler, S. (2018) Influence of vegetation type on n-alkane composition and hydrogen isotope values from a high latitude ombrotrophic bog. Organic Geochemistry 121: 48-57.

Balascio, N.L. and Wickler, S. (2018) Human-environment dynamics during the Iron Age in the Lofoten Islands. Norsk Geografisk Tidsskrift-Norwegian Journal of Geography 72: 146-160.

Balascio, N.L., D'Andrea, W.J., Gjerde, M., Bakke, J. (2018) Hydroclimate variability of High Arctic Svalbard during the Holocene inferred from hydrogen isotopes of leaf waxes. Quaternary Science Reviews 183: 177-187.

Bakke, J., Balascio, N.L., van der Bilt, W.G.M., Bradley, R.S., D’Andrea, W.J., Gjerde, M., Òlafsdottir, S., Røthe, T., de Wet, G., (2018) The Island of Amsterdamøya:  A key site for studying past climate in the Arctic Archipelago of Svalbard. Quaternary Science Reviews 183: 157-163.

de Wet, G., Balascio, N.L., D’Andrea, W.J., Bakke, J., Bradley, R.S., Perren, B.B. (2018) Holocene glacier activity reconstructed from proglacial lake Gjøavatnet on Amsterdamøya, NW Svalbard. Quaternary Science Reviews 183: 188-203.

Gjerde, M., Bakke, J., D’Andrea, W.J., Balascio, N.L., Bradley, R.S., Vasskog, K., Ólafsdottir, S., Røthe, T.O., Perren, B.B., Hormes, A. (2018) Holocene multi-proxy environmental reconstruction from Lake Hakluytvatnet, Amsterdamøya Islands, Svalbard (79.5°N). Quaternary Science Reviews 183: 164-176.

van der Bilt, W.G.M., D'Andrea, W.J., Bakke, J., Balascio, N.L., Werner, J.P., Gjerde, M., Bradley, R.S. (2018) Alkenone-based reconstructions reveal four-phase Holocene temperature evolution for High Arctic Svalbard. Quaternary Science Reviews 183: 204-213.

van der Bilt, W.G.M., Bakke, J., Balascio, N.L. (2016) Mapping sediment-landform assemblages to constrain lacustrine sedimentation in a glacier-fed lake catchment in northwest Spitsbergen. Journal of Maps 12: 985-993.

Nielsen, P.R., Balascio, N.L., Dahl, S.O., Jansen, H.L., Støren, E.W.N., Bradley, R.S. (2016) A high-resolution 1200-year lacustrine record of glacier and climate fluctuations in Lofoten, northern Norway. The Holocene 26: 917-934.

Balascio, N.L., D’Andrea, W.J., Bradley, R.S. (2015) Glacier response to North Atlantic climate variability during the Holocene. Climate of the Past 11: 1587-1598.

Balascio, N.L., Francus, P., Bradley, R.S., et al., 2015, Investigating the use of scanning XRF to locate cryptotephra in minerogenic lacustrine sediment: Experimental results. In I.W. Croudace, R.G. Rothwell (eds.), Micro-XRF Studies of Sediment Cores, Developments in Paleoenvironmental Research 17. Springer, Netherlands, p. 305-324.

D’Anjou, R., Balascio, N.L., Bradley, R.S., 2014, Locating cryptotephra in lake sediments using fluid imaging technology. Journal of Paleolimnology 52: 257-264.

Sundqvist, H.S., Kaufman, D.S., McKay, N.P., Balascio, N.L., et al., 2014, Arctic Holocene proxy climate database – New approaches to assessing geochronological accuracy and encoding climate variables. Climate of the Past 10: 1605-1631.

Balascio, N.L., D’Andrea, W.J., Bradley, R.S., Perren, B.B., 2013, Biogeochemical evidence for hydrologic changes during the Holocene in a lake sediment record from southeast Greenland. The Holocene 23: 1428-1439.

D’Anjou, R.M., Bradley, R.S., Balascio, N.L., Finkelstein, D.B., 2012, Climate impacts on human settlement and agricultural activities in northern Norway: new insights from biogeochemistry. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109: 20332-20337.

D’Andrea, W.J., Vaillencourt, D.A., Balascio, N.L. Werner, A., Roof, S.R., Retelle, M., Bradley, R.S., 2012, Mild Little Ice Age and unprecedented recent warmth in an 1800 year lake sediment record from Svalbard. Geology 40: 1007-1010.

Balascio, N.L., Bradley, R.S., 2012, Evaluating Holocene climate change in northern Norway using sediment records from two contrasting lake systems. Journal of Paleolimnology 48: 259-273.

Aarnes, I., Bjune, A., Birks, H.H., Balascio, N.L., Bakke, J., Blaauw, M., 2012, Vegetation responses to rapid climatic changes during the last deglaciation 13 500 – 8000 years ago on southwest Andøya, arctic Norway. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany 21: 17-35.

Balascio, N.L., Zhang, Z., Bradley, R.S., Perren, B., Dahl, S.O., Bakke, J., 2011, A multi-proxy approach to assessing isolation basin stratigraphy from the Lofoten Islands, Norway. Quaternary Research 75: 288-300.

Balascio, N.L., Wickler, S., Narmo, L.E., Bradley, R.S., 2011, Distal cryptotephra found in a Viking boathouse: the potential for tephrochronology in reconstructing the Iron Age in Norway. Journal of Archaeological Science 38: 934-941.

Balascio, N.L., Kaufman, D.S., Manley, W.F., 2005, Equilibrium-line altitudes during the last glacial maximum across the Brooks Range, Alaska. Journal of Quaternary Science 20: 821-838.

Balascio, N.L., Kaufman, D.S., Briner, J.P., Manley, W.F., 2005, Late Pleistocene glacial geology of the Okpilak-Kongakut Rivers region, northeastern Brooks Range, Alaska. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research 37: 416-424.