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


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.

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Figure 1: Map of the Arctic Ocean showing two sea-ice drift regimes.
Figure 2: Plot of the Kara Fe grain weighted percentage in JPC16 compared with the TSI time series.
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.
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.

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We thank R. B. Alley, T. Cronin, L. A. Mysak, L. Polyak and J. T. Andrews for helpful suggestions. L. Keigwin and N. Driscoll obtained core JPC16 and L. Keigwin provided us access for sampling it. This research was supported by NSF-OPP grants ARC-0612493 (D.A.D.) and ARC-0612384 (J.D.O.).

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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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Correspondence to Dennis A. Darby.

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Darby, D., Ortiz, J., Grosch, C. et al. 1,500-year cycle in the Arctic Oscillation identified in Holocene Arctic sea-ice drift. Nature Geosci 5, 897–900 (2012).

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