Quantitative analysis of variations in morphological types of charcoal were undertaken in sediment cores from three lakes on the Interior Plateau (BC, Canada) over the period AD 1919-2000. Seven distinct morphological types of charcoal were identified based on particle shape and structural features and were compared with seasonal precipitation and recorded area burned within 20 km-radius of study lakes. Fragile-type charcoal fragments, termed type M, displayed significant relationships to recorded area burned in sediment cores from Prosser (r2p = 0.5; p = 0.0001) and Opatcho (r2p = 0.2; p = 0.02) lakes. However, nonsignificant correlations (p > 0.05) were found between total charcoal and area burned. Robust and highly elongated morphotypes C and F were correlated to recorded spring precipitation (r2p = 0.5; p = 0.002) in Opatcho Lake. Charcoal from a sediment core from Big Lake, the lake with the largest watershed, was significantly but inversely related to past fires (r2p = 0.44; p = 0.0003), suggesting important contributions from secondary transportation and deposition. Models were developed to infer relative area burned and precipitation for the study lakes. Our results suggest that charcoal morphotypes are related to the biogeoclimatic and lake watershed characteristics. This study also suggest that charcoal morphotypes can provide insights on past fire and climate, which was not possible based on traditional analysis of total charcoal. © Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007.