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Ice-sheet collapse and sea-level rise at the Bølling warming 14,600 years ago

Abstract

Past sea-level records provide invaluable information about the response of ice sheets to climate forcing. Some such records suggest that the last deglaciation was punctuated by a dramatic period of sea-level rise, of about 20 metres, in less than 500 years. Controversy about the amplitude and timing of this meltwater pulse (MWP-1A) has, however, led to uncertainty about the source of the melt water and its temporal and causal relationships with the abrupt climate changes of the deglaciation. Here we show that MWP-1A started no earlier than 14,650 years ago and ended before 14,310 years ago, making it coeval with the Bølling warming. Our results, based on corals drilled offshore from Tahiti during Integrated Ocean Drilling Project Expedition 310, reveal that the increase in sea level at Tahiti was between 12 and 22 metres, with a most probable value between 14 and 18 metres, establishing a significant meltwater contribution from the Southern Hemisphere. This implies that the rate of eustatic sea-level rise exceeded 40 millimetres per year during MWP-1A.

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Figure 1: A Landsat image of Tahiti island.
Figure 2: The deglacial Tahiti sea-level curve.
Figure 3: Relative sea-level (RSL) records over the time window 16.5 to 12.0 kyr bp.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the IODP and ECORD (European Consortium for Ocean Research Drilling) for drilling offshore from Tahiti, and the Bremen Core Repository members for organizing the onshore sampling party. We dedicate this article to the memory of G. Cabioch, who died at the end of 2011: a reef geology expert, he was a member of the IODP expedition to Tahiti. The CEREGE group thanks W. Barthelemy for maintaining mass spectrometers; D. Borschneck for help with X-ray diffraction analyses; and P. Dussouillez for help with maps. Palaeoclimate work at CEREGE is supported by the Comer Science and Education Foundation, the European Science Foundation (EuroMARC), the European Community (Project Past4Future), the Collège de France and the IRD (Institut de Recherche pour le Développement). The Oxford University team is supported by UK Natural Environment Research Council grant NE/D001250/1 and the Comer Science and Education Foundation. The University of Tokyo group is partly supported by JSPS (NEXT program GR031).

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G.C., E.B. and B.H. were Principal Investigators for ODP proposal 519 designing this study. G.C. was co-chief scientist of IODP Expedition 310. P.D. and A.L.T. participated in the IODP sampling party. N.D., P.D. and A.L.T. performed U–Th dating of coral samples; N.D. performed X-ray diffraction analyses and reef growth modelling simulations; J.O. and Y.Y. performed geophysical modelling simulations; P.D. wrote the manuscript in collaboration with E.B. and B.H. The paper was refined by contributions from N.D., A.L.T., G.M.H. and G.C.

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Correspondence to Pierre Deschamps.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Deschamps, P., Durand, N., Bard, E. et al. Ice-sheet collapse and sea-level rise at the Bølling warming 14,600 years ago. Nature 483, 559–564 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature10902

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