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Data release for Ice and ocean constraints on early human migrations into North America along the Pacific coast

Metadata Updated: October 29, 2023

Founding populations of the first Americans likely occupied parts of Beringia during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) (1). The timing, pathways, and modes of their southward transit remain unknown, but blockage of the interior route by North American ice sheets between ~26-14 cal kyr BP (ka) favors a coastal route during this period. Using models and paleoceanographic data from the North Pacific, we identify climatically favorable intervals when humans could have plausibly traversed the Cordilleran coastal corridor during the terminal Pleistocene. Model simulations suggest that northward coastal currents strengthened during the LGM and at times of enhanced freshwater input, making southward transit by boat more difficult. Repeated Cordilleran glacial-calving events (2) would have further challenged coastal transit on land and at sea. Following these events, ice-free coastal areas opened and seasonal sea ice was present along the Alaskan margin until at least 15 ka. Given evidence for humans south of the ice sheets by 16 ka and possibly earlier (3), we posit that early people may have taken advantage of winter sea ice that connected islands and coastal refugia. Marine ice-edge habitats offer a rich food supply and traversing coastal sea ice could have mitigated the difficulty of traveling southward in watercraft or on land over glaciers. We identify 24.5-22 ka and 16.4-14.8 ka as environmentally favorable time periods for coastal migration, when climate conditions provided both winter sea ice and ice-free summer conditions that facilitated year-round marine resource diversity and multiple modes of mobility along the North Pacific coast.

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Public: This dataset is intended for public access and use. License: No license information was provided. If this work was prepared by an officer or employee of the United States government as part of that person's official duties it is considered a U.S. Government Work.

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Metadata Created Date June 1, 2023
Metadata Updated Date October 29, 2023

Metadata Source

Harvested from DOI EDI

Additional Metadata

Resource Type Dataset
Metadata Created Date June 1, 2023
Metadata Updated Date October 29, 2023
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Identifier USGS:63b47a8cd34e92aad3ca9de1
Data Last Modified 20230209
Category geospatial
Public Access Level public
Bureau Code 010:12
Metadata Context
Metadata Catalog ID
Schema Version
Catalog Describedby
Harvest Object Id 45a64bc1-6f07-42b5-b0f1-ba0dd00b69c5
Harvest Source Id 52bfcc16-6e15-478f-809a-b1bc76f1aeda
Harvest Source Title DOI EDI
Metadata Type geospatial
Old Spatial -180.0,-90.0,180.0,90.0
Publisher Hierarchy White House > U.S. Department of the Interior > U.S. Geological Survey
Source Datajson Identifier True
Source Hash a952663a9ff84dc2cfaa863b3590e0bf97c015f424eb0ffe28c0f6773be7f745
Source Schema Version 1.1
Spatial {"type": "Polygon", "coordinates": -180.0, -90.0, -180.0, 90.0, 180.0, 90.0, 180.0, -90.0, -180.0, -90.0}

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