Routing of meltwater from the Laurentide Ice Sheet during the Younger Dryas cold episode

Abstract

ROOTH1 proposed that the Younger Dryas cold episode, which chilled the North Atlantic region from 11,000 to 10,000 yr BP, was initiated by a diversion of meltwater from the Mississippi drainage to the St Lawrence drainage system. The link between these events is postulated to be a turnoff, during the Younger Dryas cold episode, of the North Atlantic's conveyor-belt circulation system which currently supplies an enormous amount of heat to the atmosphere over the North Atlantic region2. This turnoff is attributed to a reduction in surface-water salinity, and hence also in density, of the waters in the region where North Atlantic Deep Water (NADW) now forms. Here we present oxygen isotope and accelerator radiocarbon measurements on planktonic foraminifera from Orca Basin core EN32-PC4 which reveal a significant reduction in meltwater flow through the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico from about 11,200 to 10,000 radiocarbon years ago. This finding is consistent with the record for Lake Agassiz which indicates that the meltwater from the southwestern margin of the Laurentide Ice Sheet was diverted to the northern Atlantic Ocean through the St Lawrence valley during the interval from ~11,000 to 10,000 years before present (yr BP).

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Broecker, W., Kennett, J., Flower, B. et al. Routing of meltwater from the Laurentide Ice Sheet during the Younger Dryas cold episode. Nature 341, 318–321 (1989). https://doi.org/10.1038/341318a0

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