Letter | Published:

South Greenland ice-sheet collapse during Marine Isotope Stage 11

Nature volume 510, pages 525528 (26 June 2014) | Download Citation

Abstract

Varying levels of boreal summer insolation and associated Earth system feedbacks led to differing climate and ice-sheet states during late-Quaternary interglaciations. In particular, Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 11 was an exceptionally long interglaciation and potentially had a global mean sea level 6 to 13 metres above the present level around 410,000 to 400,000 years ago1,2, implying substantial mass loss from the Greenland ice sheet (GIS). There are, however, no model simulations and only limited proxy data3,4 to constrain the magnitude of the GIS response to climate change during this ‘super interglacial’5, thus confounding efforts to assess climate/ice-sheet threshold behaviour6,7 and associated sea-level rise1,2. Here we show that the south GIS was drastically smaller during MIS 11 than it is now, with only a small residual ice dome over southernmost Greenland. We use the strontium–neodymium–lead isotopic composition of proglacial sediment discharged from south Greenland to constrain the provenance of terrigenous silt deposited on the Eirik Drift, a sedimentary deposit off the south Greenland margin. We identify a major reduction in sediment input derived from south Greenland’s Precambrian bedrock terranes, probably reflecting the cessation of subglacial erosion and sediment transport8 as a result of near-complete deglaciation of south Greenland. Comparison with ice-sheet configurations from numerical models7,9,10,11,12 suggests that the GIS lost about 4.5 to 6 metres of sea-level-equivalent volume during MIS 11. This is evidence for late-Quaternary GIS collapse after it crossed a climate/ice-sheet stability threshold that may have been no more than several degrees above pre-industrial temperatures6,7.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. 1.

    & Collapse of polar ice sheets during the stage 11 interglacial. Nature 483, 453–456 (2012)

  2. 2.

    et al. Comparison between Holocene and Marine Isotope Stage-11 sea-level histories. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 291, 97–105 (2010)

  3. 3.

    et al. Ancient biomolecules from deep ice cores reveal a forested southern Greenland. Science 317, 111–114 (2007)

  4. 4.

    & Natural variability of Greenland climate, vegetation, and ice volume during the past million years. Science 320, 1622–1625 (2008)

  5. 5.

    et al. 2.8 Million years of Arctic climate change from Lake El’gygytgyn, NE Russia. Science 337, 315–320 (2012)

  6. 6.

    , , & Thresholds for irreversible decline of the Greenland ice sheet. Clim. Dyn. 35, 1049–1057 (2010)

  7. 7.

    , & Multistability and critical thresholds of the Greenland ice sheet. Nature Clim. Change 2, 429–432 (2012)

  8. 8.

    , , , & Rapid erosion beneath the Greenland ice sheet. Geology 40, 343–346 (2012)

  9. 9.

    & Substantial contribution to sea-level rise during the last interglacial from the Greenland Ice Sheet. Nature 404, 591–594 (2000)

  10. 10.

    Sea-level changes at the LGM from ice-dynamic reconstructions of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets during the glacial cycles. Quat. Sci. Rev. 21, 203–231 (2002)

  11. 11.

    & Greenland glacial history, borehole constraints, and Eemian extent. J. Geophys. Res. 108, 2143 (2003)

  12. 12.

    , & Tracer transport in the Greenland Ice Sheet - constraints on ice cores and glacial history. Quat. Sci. Rev. 24, 173–194 (2005)

  13. 13.

    Bedmap2: improved ice bed, surface and thickness datasets for Antarctica. Cryosphere 7, 375–393 (2013)

  14. 14.

    et al. A new bed elevation dataset for Greenland. Cryosphere 7, 499–510 (2013)

  15. 15.

    & Glacial/interglacial instabilities of the Western Boundary Under Current during the last 365 kyr from Sm/Nd ratios of the sedimentary clay-size fractions at ODP site 646 (Labrador Sea). Mar. Geol. 232, 87–99 (2006)

  16. 16.

    et al. Sr-Nd-Pb isotope evidence for ice-sheet presence on southern Greenland during the last interglacial. Science 333, 620–623 (2011)

  17. 17.

    , & Magnetic properties of deep-sea sediments off southwest Greenland: evidence for major differences between the last two deglaciations. Geology 23, 241–244 (1995)

  18. 18.

    , , & Response of the southern Greenland Ice Sheet during the last two deglaciations. Geology 36, 359–362 (2008)

  19. 19.

    et al. Paleointensity-assisted chronostratigraphy of detrital layers on the Eirik Drift (North Atlantic) since marine isotope stage 11. Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst. 8, Q11007 (2007)

  20. 20.

    , & Foraminifer isotope study of the Pleistocene Labrador Sea, northwest North Atlantic (IODP Sites 1302/03 and 1305), with emphasis on paleoceanographical differences between its “inner” and “outer” basins. Mar. Geol. 279, 188–198 (2011)

  21. 21.

    , , & Isotope stratigraphy, sedimentation rates, deep circulation, and carbonate events in the Labrador Sea during the last 200 ka. Can. J. Earth Sci. 31, 63–89 (1994)

  22. 22.

    in Proc. Int. Symp. Erosion Sediment Yield: Global Regional Perspectives (eds & ) 105–114 (IAHS-AISH Publication, 1996)

  23. 23.

    & Paraglacial sedimentation: a consideration of fluvial processes conditioned by glaciation. Geol. Soc. Am. Bull. 83, 3059–3071 (1972)

  24. 24.

    & New precipitation and accumulation maps for Greenland. J. Glaciol. 37, 140–148 (1991)

  25. 25.

    et al. Preservation of a preglacial landscape under the center of the Greenland ice sheet. Science 344, 402–405 (2014)

  26. 26.

    & Comparison of conditions between the polar and subpolar North Atlantic region over the last five climate cycles. Paleoceanography 18, 1036 (2003)

  27. 27.

    Interglacial climates and the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation: is there an Arctic controversy? Quat. Sci. Rev. 63, 1–22 (2013)

  28. 28.

    et al. Speleothems reveal 500,000-year history of Siberian permafrost. Science 340, 183–186 (2013)

  29. 29.

    , , , & Ancient permafrost and a future, warmer Arctic. Science 321, 1648 (2008)

  30. 30.

    et al. A 600-ka Arctic sea-ice record from Mendeleev Ridge based on ostracodes. Quat. Sci. Rev. 79, 157–167 (2013)

  31. 31.

    et al. IMAGES 5 on Board the Marion Dufresne, 2nd Leg 30 June - 24 July 1999 (Open File 3782, Geol. Surv. Canada, 1999)

  32. 32.

    , , , & A Pb isotope tracer of ocean-ice sheet interaction: the record from the NE Atlantic during the Last Glacial/Interglacial cycle. Quat. Sci. Rev. 82, 133–144 (2013)

  33. 33.

    & Early diagenesis of biogenic silica in the Amazon delta: alteration, authigenic clay formation, and storage. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 68, 1061–1085 (2004)

  34. 34.

    , & Stacking paleointensity and oxygen isotope data for the last 1.5 Myr (PISO-1500). Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 283, 14–23 (2009)

  35. 35.

    , , , & Evolution of the northeast Labrador Sea during the last interglaciation. Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst. 13, Q11006 (2012)

  36. 36.

    , & Pliocene-Pleistocene stack of 57 globally distributed benthic δ18O records. Paleoceanography 20, PA1003 (2005)

  37. 37.

    , & in Proc. Ocean Drilling Program, Scientific Results Vol. 105 (eds. et al.) 617–652 (Ocean Drilling Program, 1989)

  38. 38.

    & Sm-Nd isotopic evolution of chondrites. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 50, 139–155 (1980)

  39. 39.

    & in Geology of Greenland (eds & ) 12–15 (Geol. Soc. Greenland, 1976)

  40. 40.

    , , & in The Ocean Basins and Margins (eds & ) 125–159 (Plenum, 1974)

  41. 41.

    , & in Precambrian Geology of the Disko Bugt Region, West Greenland (ed. ) 171–179 (Geol. Greenland Surv. Bull. 181, 1999)

  42. 42.

    The bedrock geology under the Inland Ice: the next major challenge for Greenland mapping. Geol. Survey Denmark Greenland Bull. 17, 57–60 (2009)

  43. 43.

    et al. Nd and Pb isotope signatures of the clay-size fraction of Labrador Sea sediments during the Holocene: implications for the inception of the modern deep circulation pattern. Paleoceanography 19, PA3002 (2004)

  44. 44.

    & Origin of continental crust of 1.9-1.7 Ga age defined by Nd isotopes in the Ketilidian terrain of South Greenland. Contrib. Mineral. Petrol. 87, 311–318 (1984)

  45. 45.

    , & Isotopic and geochronological studies on granites from the Ketilidian mobile belt of south Greenland. Geol. Soc. Am. Bull. 85, 403–412 (1974)

  46. 46.

    & Isotopic and chemical variation in granites across a Proterozoic continental margin—the Ketilidian mobile belt of South Greenland. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 73, 65–80 (1985)

  47. 47.

    , & Crust-mantle interaction in the evolution of the Ilimaussaq Complex, South Greenland: Nd isotopic studies. Lithos 40, 189–202 (1997)

  48. 48.

    & New pieces to the Archaean terrane jigsaw puzzle in the Nuuk region, southern West Greenland: steps in transforming a simple insight into a complex regional tectonothermal model. J. Geol. Soc. Lond. 162, 147–162 (2005)

  49. 49.

    , , & Greenland from Archaean to Quaternary. Descriptive Text to the 1995 Geological Map of Greenland, 1:2 500 000 2nd edn (Geol. Surv. Denmark Greenland Bull. 18, 2009)

  50. 50.

    & Nd and Sr isotopic systematics of river water suspended material - implications for crustal evolution. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 87, 249–265 (1988)

  51. 51.

    , & Crustal growth and crustal recycling in the Nagssugtoqidian orogen of West Greenland: constraints from radiogenic isotope systematics and U–Pb zircon geochronology. Precambr. Res. 91, 365–381 (1998)

  52. 52.

    in Early Tertiary Volcanism and the Opening of the Northeast Atlantic (eds & ) 181–196 (Geol. Soc. Spec. Publ. 39, 1988)

  53. 53.

    et al. Post-breakup basaltic magmatism along the East Greenland Tertiary rifted margin. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 160, 845–862 (1998)

  54. 54.

    & Crustal contamination in Palaeogene East Greenland flood basalts: plumbing system evolution during continental rifting. Chem. Geol. 157, 89–118 (1999)

  55. 55.

    , & Interaction of the rifting East Greenland margin with a zoned ancestral Iceland plume. Geology 34, 481–484 (2006)

  56. 56.

    , , & in Proc. Ocean Drilling Program, Scientific Results Vol. 163 (eds , , & ) 77–93 (Ocean Drilling Program, 1999)

  57. 57.

    , & Magma plumbing systems in large igneous provinces; inferences from cyclical variations in Palaeogene east Greenland basalts. Contrib. Mineral. Petrol. 147, 438–452 (2004)

  58. 58.

    , & Provenance of Late Quaternary ice-proximal sediments in the North Atlantic: Nd, Sr and Pb isotopic evidence. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 209, 227–243 (2003)

  59. 59.

    , , , & Provenance of Quaternary glacial and glacimarine sediments along the southeast Greenland margin. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 286, 52–62 (2009)

  60. 60.

    , & Sm-Nd isotope systematics in deep-sea sediments: clay-size versus coarser fractions. Mar. Geol. 168, 79–87 (2000)

  61. 61.

    , , , eds. The Greenland Caledonides: Evolution of the Northeast Margin of Laurentia (Geol. Soc. Am. Mem. 202, Geological Society of America, 2008)

  62. 62.

    et al. Ocean circulation and iceberg discharge in the glacial North Atlantic: inferences from unmixing of sediment size distributions. Geology 30, 555–558 (2002)

  63. 63.

    et al. Deep western boundary current dynamics and associated sedimentation on the Eirik Drift, Southern Greenland Margin. Deep-Sea Res. 54, 2036–2066 (2007)

  64. 64.

    , , & Sm-Nd signature of modern and late Quaternary sediments from the northwest North Atlantic: implications for deep current changes since the Last Glacial Maximum. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 146, 607–625 (1997)

  65. 65.

    , , & A review of the deep and surface currents around Eirik Drift, south of Greenland: comparison of the past with the present. Global Planet. Change 79, 244–254 (2011)

  66. 66.

    , & Relative paleointensity and environmental magnetism since 1.2 Ma at IODP site U1305 (Eirik Drift, NW Atlantic). Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 357-358, 137–144 (2012)

  67. 67.

    et al. North Atlantic Climate (IODP Sci. Prosp. 303/306, Integrated Ocean Drilling Program, 2004)

  68. 68.

    , , , & Source as a controlling factor on the quality and interpretation of sediment magnetic records from the northern North Atlantic. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 368, 69–77 (2013)

  69. 69.

    Principles of Isotope Geology 141–151 (Wiley, 1986)

  70. 70.

    Introduction to Geochemical Modeling 1–31 (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1995)

  71. 71.

    & Nature and composition of the continental crust - a lower crustal perspective. Rev. Geophys. 33, 267–309 (1995)

  72. 72.

    R Core Team. The R Project for Statistical Computing (R Foundation for Statistical Computing, 2013)

  73. 73.

    et al. A new coupled ice sheet/climate model: description and sensitivity to model physics under Eemian, Last Glacial Maximum, late Holocene and modern climate conditions. Geosci. Model Dev. 4, 117–136 (2011)

  74. 74.

    , , & Quantification of the Greenland ice sheet contribution to Last Interglacial sea level rise. Clim. Past 9, 621–639 (2013)

  75. 75.

    , , & Greenland ice sheet contribution to sea level rise during the last interglacial period: a modelling study driven and constrained by ice core data. Clim. Past 9, 353–366 (2013)

  76. 76.

    & Melting of Northern Greenland during the last interglaciation. Cryosphere 6, 1239–1250 (2012)

  77. 77.

    , , , & Coupled regional climate–ice-sheet simulation shows limited Greenland ice loss during the Eemian. Clim. Past 9, 1773–1788 (2013)

  78. 78.

    et al. Simulating Arctic climate warmth and icefield retreat in the last inter- glaciation. Science 311, 1751–1753 (2006

Download references

Acknowledgements

We thank A. de Vernal for access to pollen records and archived sediment; C. Hillaire-Marcel for discussions of MD99-2227 stratigraphy and geochemistry; J. Briner, B. Hudson, S. Kelley and N. Larsen for providing samples; and E. Colville, P. Holm and S. Strano for assistance in the field. This research was supported by US NSF awards ANS-0902571 (A.E.C., B.L.B.) and -0902751 (J.S.S.), and a Canadian NSERC fellowship (A.V.R.).

Author information

Author notes

    • Alberto V. Reyes
    •  & Bethany Welke

    Present addresses: Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2E3, Canada (A.V.R); Department of Geosciences, University of Arizona, 1040 East 4th Street, Tucson, Arizona 85721, USA (B.W.).

Affiliations

  1. Department of Geoscience, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1215 West Dayton Street, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA

    • Alberto V. Reyes
    • , Anders E. Carlson
    • , Brian L. Beard
    • , Kelsey Winsor
    • , Bethany Welke
    •  & David J. Ullman
  2. School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology, Queen’s University Belfast, Elmwood Avenue, Belfast BT7 1NN, UK

    • Alberto V. Reyes
  3. College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, 104 CEOAS Administration Building, Corvallis, Oregon 97331, USA

    • Anders E. Carlson
    • , Robert G. Hatfield
    • , Joseph S. Stoner
    •  & David J. Ullman

Authors

  1. Search for Alberto V. Reyes in:

  2. Search for Anders E. Carlson in:

  3. Search for Brian L. Beard in:

  4. Search for Robert G. Hatfield in:

  5. Search for Joseph S. Stoner in:

  6. Search for Kelsey Winsor in:

  7. Search for Bethany Welke in:

  8. Search for David J. Ullman in:

Contributions

A.E.C., B.L.B. and J.S.S. had the idea for the study; A.V.R., A.E.C. and R.G.H. designed and conducted field research in Greenland; B.W. conducted grain-size analysis; A.V.R. and B.L.B. conducted isotopic analyses; K.W. sampled and identified foraminifera; A.V.R. and D.J.U. implemented the isotope mixing model; A.E.C., R.G.H., J.S.S. and K.W. developed the age model for MD99-2227; A.V.R., A.E.C. and B.L.B. synthesized the results; and A.V.R. and A.E.C. wrote the manuscript, with input from all authors.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Alberto V. Reyes or Anders E. Carlson.

Greenland stream sediment and MD99-2227 data have been deposited with the NOAA National Climatic Data Center (http://hurricane.ncdc.noaa.gov/pls/paleox/f?p=519:1:0::::P1_STUDY_ID:16436).

Extended data

Supplementary information

Excel files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Tables

    This file contains Supplementary Tables 1-7: Table 1 - Grain-size and isotopic data for the MIS 11 interval of MD99-2227; Table 2 - Isotopic data for Greenland stream sediment silts; Table 3 - Isotopic data used to determine geochemical endmember values for Paleogene volcanics; Table 4 - Mixing model estimates of MIS11 silt provenance from south Greenland Precambrian and Paleogene volcanic terranes, as fraction CaCO3-free silt; Table 5 - Revised mixing model estimates of Holocene and TI silt provenance from south Greenland Precambrian and Paleogene volcanic terranes, as fraction CaCO3-free silt; Table 6 - Revised mixing model estimates of MIS 5 and TII silt provenance from south Greenland Precambrian and Paleogene volcanic terranes, as fraction CaCO3-free silt; Table 7 - Corrected silt wt% data and terrane provenance estimates for the Holocene and LIG/TII intervals of MD99-2227.

About this article

Publication history

Received

Accepted

Published

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nature13456

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.