Arctic sea ice variability during the last deglaciation: a biomarker approach

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 8:30 AM
Juliane Müller and Ruediger H Stein, Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz-Center for Polar and Marine Research Bremerhaven, Bremerhaven, Germany
The last transition from full glacial to current interglacial conditions was accompanied by distinct short-term climate fluctuations caused by changes in the global ocean circulation system. Most palaeoceanographic studies focus on the documentation of the behaviour of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) during the last deglaciation in response to freshwater forcing events. In this respect, the role of Arctic sea ice remained relatively unconsidered - primarily because of the difficulty of its reconstruction. Here we present new proxy data on late glacial (including the Last Glacial Maximum; LGM) and deglacial sea ice variability in the Arctic Ocean and its main gateway - the Fram Strait - and how these changes in sea ice coverage contributed to AMOC perturbations observed during Heinrich Event 1 and the Younger Dryas.

Recurrent short-term advances and retreats of sea ice in Fram Strait, prior and during the LGM, are in line with a variable (or intermittent) North Atlantic heat flow along the eastern corridor of the Nordic Seas. Possibly in direct response to the initial freshwater discharge from melting continental ice-sheets, a permanent sea ice cover established only at about 19 ka BP (i.e. post-LGM) and lasted until 17.6 ka BP, when an abrupt break-up of this thick ice cover and a sudden discharge of huge amounts of sea ice and icebergs through Fram Strait coincided with the weakening of the AMOC during Heinrich Event 1. Similarly, another sea ice maximum at about 12.8 ka BP is associated with the slowdown of the AMOC during the Younger Dryas.

The new data sets clearly highlight the important role of Arctic sea ice for the re-organisation of the oceanographic setting in the North Atlantic during the last deglaciation. Further studies and sensitivity experiments to identify crucial driving (and feedback) mechanisms within the High Latitude ice-ocean-atmosphere system will contribute the understanding of rapid climate changes.