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South Greenland ice-sheet collapse during Marine Isotope Stage 11

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.

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Figure 1: Map of Greenland and other features mentioned in the text.
Figure 2: MD99-2227 records on depth scale.
Figure 3: Terrigenous silt provenance estimates for MD99-2227 compared with other Eirik Drift indicators of GIS extent during the Holocene, LIG and MIS 11.

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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

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

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.

Corresponding authors

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

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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Additional information

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 figures and tables

Extended Data Figure 1 Whole-rock and stream sediment silt Sr–Nd–Pb isotope composition for south Greenland bedrock terranes.

a, b, 207Pb/204Pb (a) and 208Pb/204Pb (b) versus 206Pb/204Pb. c, d, 87Sr/86Sr versus 87Rb/86Sr for the range of whole-rock (WR) and stream sediment (SED) compositions (c) and restricted to the range of stream sediment compositions (d). e, 143Nd/144Nd versus 147Sm/144Nd. f, εNd versus 87Sr/86Sr. g, h, 87Sr/86Sr versus 206Pb/204Pb (g) and 208Pb/204Pb (h). Whole-rock data for KMB, AB and NMB compiled in ref. 16; Palaeogene volcanic whole-rock and glacigenic shelf sediment data are presented in Supplementary Table 3. Mean values (large symbols) are concentration-weighted means for Rb–Sr and Sm–Nd isotopic compositions, whereas Pb isotope ratios are arithmetic means.

Extended Data Figure 2 Summary of mixing model results for each south Greenland terrane.

MD99-2227 inferred silt provenance expressed as median flux of CaCO3-free silt (a) and median percentage of total CaCO3-free silt (b). Values for the Holocene and LIG are recast from CaCO3-free silt Sr–Nd–Pb isotope ratios in ref. 16. Thick black and thin grey vertical lines mark the 16.5–83.5% and 2.5–97.5% quantile ranges, respectively, of valid mixing solutions from all 10,000 model runs. Uncertainty estimates are conservative, because the Monte Carlo procedure for random endmember determination can result in unrealistic combinations of source-terrane isotope composition and elemental concentration. Note different y-axis scale for Palaeogene volcanic data.

Extended Data Figure 3 Selected sediment sampling sites in west Greenland.

Site coordinates are provided in Supplementary Table 2: a, Qa11-04; b, Qa11-01; Qa11-03; c, stream sediment sampling sites near Narsaq; d, Kn11-03; e, proglacial lake, iceberg debris and proglacial outwash sampling sites near Nuuk; f, Kp11-01.

Extended Data Figure 4 Age models for MD99-2227 and ODP Site 646.

a, Age–depth model for MD99-2227. Circles mark tie points based on 14C dates18, δ18O (ref. 35) and RPI. b, MD99-2227 RPI and the PISO-1500 RPI stack34, plotted on their individual age models. Crosses mark RPI tie points. c, MD99-2227 and ODP Site 646 magnetic susceptibilities, plotted on the MD99-2227 age model. For comparison purposes, the ODP Site 646 age–depth model was fitted to MD99-2227 using the magnetic susceptibility tie points indicated by crosses.

Extended Data Figure 5 Comparison of MD99-2227 sedimentation rates and provenance estimates from south Greenland terranes.

a, Neogloboquadrina pachyderma (s) δ18O from ODP Site 646 (ref. 4; green) and MD99-2227 (Methods; blue). Yellow bar marks the interval of MD99-2227 that is affected by core stretching. b, MD99-2227 inferred silt provenance estimated using four-component endmember modelling, expressed as flux of CaCO3-free silt. Values for the Holocene and LIG are recast from CaCO3-free silt Sr–Nd–Pb isotope ratios in ref. 16. c, MD99-2227 sedimentation rates (left axis, thick blue line) and dry bulk density (right axis, thin red line). Note different y-axis scale for the Holocene/TI panels at far left for b and c.

Extended Data Figure 6 Sediment sources and sedimentation processes.

Conceptual model of terrigenous silt sources and transport processes for a given bedrock terrane during full glaciation (a), glacial termination and deglaciation (b), and near-complete deglaciation (c). SSC, sand/silt/clay.

Extended Data Figure 7 Isotope mixing model comparison.

Comparison of mixing model output for MIS 1, Termination I, MIS 5e and Termination II samples presented in ref. 16 with model output using the Monte Carlo approach reported here. a, Number of valid mixing equation solutions. b, c, Mean CaCO3-free silt fractions for the KMB, AB and NMB (b), and the Palaeogene volcanics (c).

Supplementary information

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. (XLS 179 kb)

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Reyes, A., Carlson, A., Beard, B. et al. South Greenland ice-sheet collapse during Marine Isotope Stage 11. Nature 510, 525–528 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature13456

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