1,500-year cycle in the Arctic Oscillation identified in Holocene Arctic sea-ice drift

Journal name:
Nature Geoscience
Volume:
5,
Pages:
897–900
Year published:
DOI:
doi:10.1038/ngeo1629
Received
Accepted
Published online

Weather and climate in the Northern Hemisphere is profoundly affected by the Arctic Oscillation, a quasi-periodic fluctuation in atmospheric pressure that occurs on interannual to interdecadal timescales1. Reconstructions of the Arctic Oscillation over longer timescales have suggested additional centennial- to millennial-scale variations in the phase of the oscillation, but often with conflicting results2. Here we assess patterns of sea-ice drift in the Arctic Ocean over the past 8,000 years by geochemically determining the source of ice-rafted iron grains in a sediment core off the coast of Alaska. We identify pulses of sediment carried by sea ice from the Kara Sea3, which can reach the coast of Alaska only during a strongly positive Arctic Oscillation4, 5. On the basis of these observations, we construct a record of the Arctic Oscillation phase, and identify a 1,500-year periodicity similar to that found in Holocene records of ice-rafted debris6, 7 in the North Atlantic, distinct from a 1,000-year cycle that has been found in total solar irradiance8. We conclude that the 1,500-year cycle in the Arctic Oscillation arises from either internal variability of the climate system or as an indirect response to low-latitude solar forcing.

At a glance

Figures

  1. Map of the Arctic Ocean showing two sea-ice drift regimes.
    Figure 1: Map of the Arctic Ocean showing two sea-ice drift regimes.

    The TPD and the Beaufort Gyre (BG) depict endmember extremes for both a strongly −AO phase (solid yellow drift arrows) and a strongly +AO (dashed red arrows for Kara Sea ice and dashed maroon for Laptev Sea ice). Both of these Russian source areas receive most of their sediment from large rivers, the Ob (O.R.), the Yenisey (Y.R.) and the Lena (L.R.). Circles and triangles mark sediment sample locations for Russian source areas. Other potential source samples are shown in Supplementary Fig. S1.

  2. Plot of the Kara Fe grain weighted percentage in JPC16 compared with the TSI time series.
    Figure 2: Plot of the Kara Fe grain weighted percentage in JPC16 compared with the TSI time series.

    There is more than a threefold increase in the +AO between 2 and 2.2kyr BP (values of ~ 60% in middle panel) compared with the past hundred years (values less than 15% in top panel). Both records are interpolated to the same time step (0.02kyr). The heavy black curves are the 100yr average for both data sets.

  3. Time series analysis of the Kara Sea Fe grain weighted percentage and the TSI using MEM, which is superior for resolving narrowband cycles.
    Figure 3: Time series analysis of the Kara Sea Fe grain weighted percentage and the TSI using MEM, which is superior for resolving narrowband cycles.

    The dashed curves are the 0.99 confidence limit for both records. A prominent 1.5kyr cycle is present in the Kara data set but absent from the TSI.

  4. Wavelet analysis of the Kara Sea Fe grain spectra and the TSI showing the power of the cycles over the length of the time series and the complete absence of a 1.5-kyr cycle in the solar record.
    Figure 4: Wavelet analysis of the Kara Sea Fe grain spectra and the TSI showing the power of the cycles over the length of the time series and the complete absence of a 1.5-kyr cycle in the solar record.

    The triangular region below the red line is the cone of influence and signals above this area may be distorted owing to the fact that the time series does not extend beyond the interval 0–8kyr BP (see Supplementary Methods).

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Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Ocean, Earth, & Atmospheric Sciences, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia 23529, USA

    • Dennis A. Darby &
    • Chester E. Grosch
  2. Department of Geology, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio 44242, USA

    • Joseph D. Ortiz
  3. Department of Earth Sciences, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California 90089-0740, USA

    • Steven P. Lund

Contributions

D.A.D. ran the Fe grain analyses, created the plots of the data, correlated the cores and wrote most of the paper. J.D.O. helped with the writing, figure preparation, statistical analyses, correlations, comparisons of the Fe grain data with other data and the connection with the low-latitude solar forcing of climate. C.E.G. did the time series analysis, helped with the figures dealing with these analyses and wrote the explanation of these methods in the Supplementary Information. S.P.L. sampled and analysed the cores for palaeomagnetic features and helped to correlate these between cores that are well dated by AMS radiocarbon.

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