Millennial Scale Variability of the AMOC and its Link to Climate During the Holocene

Monday, 15 December 2014
David J Thornalley, University College London, London, United Kingdom, Delia Oppo, WHOI, Geology and Geophysics, Woods Hole, United States, Lloyd D Keigwin, WHOI, Woods Hole, MA, United States, Ian R Hall, Cardiff University, Cardiff, United Kingdom and Paola Moffa Sanchez, Institute of Marine and Coastal Science, New Brunswick, NJ, United States
Several proxy and modelling studies suggest that there may have been considerable change in the operation the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) during the Holocene. Yet despite its importance for regional and global climate, the Holocene history of the AMOC is poorly constrained. Improving our knowledge of past AMOC variability will contribute to our general understanding of the dynamics of ocean circulation and the role it may play in causing or amplifying climate variability on millennial timescales.

We present Holocene grain-size records in depth transects from Blake Outer Ridge and Cape Hatteras, sampling the full-depth range of the Deep Western Boundary Current (DWBC), the lower limb of the AMOC. These records will complement a depth-transect of grain-size records sampling the Iceland-Scotland (I-S) overflow, showing Holocene variations that reflect deglacial meltwater forcing in the early Holocene and insolation-forced trends from the middle-to-late Holocene (Thornalley et al., 2013, Climate of the Past). We will also present detailed grain-size records for the last 2,000 years, both in a depth transect of cores off Cape Hatteras, and from cores in the Iceland Basin, sampling the I-S overflow. Our extensive datasets enable us to provide a coherent synthesis of changes in the flow strength of key components of the AMOC on centennial-millennial and orbital timescales, which we can use to develop our understanding of past millennial-scale climate variability.

Specific questions to be addressed include: How well coupled are Holocene trends in Iceland-Scotland overflow and the DWBC? How did I-S overflow and the AMOC vary during the last millennia, including the last ~150 years since the end of the Little Ice Age? Initial results suggest a long-term anti-phasing of the Nordic overflows, wherein mid-late Holocene weakening of the I-S overflow has been compensated for by a strengthening of Denmark Strait overflow. We will also report on pronounced centennial-millennial scale reductions in the inferred flow strength at sites bathed by Labrador Sea Water (LSW) which coincide with well-known climate events such as the Little Ice Age, suggesting an important role for LSW in Holocene centennial-millennial climate variability.