Letter | Published:

Rapid oceanic and atmospheric changes during the Younger Dryas cold period

Nature Geoscience volume 2, pages 202205 (2009) | Download Citation

Subjects

Abstract

The Younger Dryas event, which began approximately 12,900 years ago, was a period of rapid cooling in the Northern Hemisphere, driven by large-scale reorganizations of patterns of atmospheric and oceanic circulation1,2,3. Environmental changes during this period have been documented by both proxy-based reconstructions3 and model simulations4, but there is currently no consensus on the exact mechanisms of onset, stabilization or termination of the Younger Dryas5,6,7,8. Here we present high-resolution records from two sediment cores obtained from Lake Kråkenes in western Norway and the Nordic seas. Multiple proxies from Lake Kråkenes are indicative of rapid alternations between glacial growth and melting during the later Younger Dryas. Meanwhile, reconstructed sea surface temperature and salinity from the Nordic seas show an alternation between sea-ice cover and the influx of warm, salty North Atlantic waters. We suggest that the influx of warm water enabled the westerly wind systems to drift northward, closer to their present-day positions. The winds thus brought relatively warm maritime air to Northern Europe, resulting in rising temperatures and the melting of glaciers. Subsequent input of this fresh meltwater into the ocean spurred the formation of sea ice, which forced the westerly winds back to the south, cooling Northern Europe. We conclude that rapid alternations between these two states immediately preceded the termination of the Younger Dryas and the permanent transition to an interglacial state.

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.

    The Younger Dryas cold interval as viewed from central Greenland. Quat. Sci. Rev. 19, 213–226 (2000).

  2. 2.

    , , , & An abrupt wind shift in western Europe at the onset of the Younger Dryas cold period. Nature Geosci. 1, 520–523 (2008).

  3. 3.

    , & The impact of the North Atlantic Ocean on the Younger Dryas climate in northwestern and central Europe. J. Quat. Sci. 13, 447–453 (1998).

  4. 4.

    & Study of abrupt climate change by a coupled ocean-atmosphere model. Quat. Sci. Rev. 19, 285–299 (2000).

  5. 5.

    et al. Geochemical proxies of North American freshwater routing during the Younger Dryas cold event. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 104, 6556–6561 (2007).

  6. 6.

    et al. Evidence for an extraterrestrial impact 12,900 years ago that contributed to the megafaunal extinctions and the Younger Dryas cooling. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 104, 16016–16021 (2007).

  7. 7.

    , , & Freshwater forcing from the Greenland Ice Sheet during the Younger Dryas: Evidence from southeastern Greenland shelf cores. Quat. Sci. Rev. 25, 282–298 (2006).

  8. 8.

    , , & Strong hemispheric coupling of glacial climate through freshwater discharge and ocean circulation. Nature 430, 851–856 (2004).

  9. 9.

    Does the trigger for abrupt climate change reside in the ocean or in the atmosphere? Science 300, 1519–1522 (2003).

  10. 10.

    & Sea ice as the glacial cycles’ climate switch: Role of seasonal and orbital forcing. Paleoceanography 15, 605–615 (2000).

  11. 11.

    , , , & Collapse and rapid resumption of Atlantic meridional circulation linked to deglacial climate changes. Nature 428, 834–837 (2004).

  12. 12.

    , , & The role of seasonality in abrupt climate change. Quat. Sci. Rev. 24, 1159–1182 (2005).

  13. 13.

    , , & Abrupt climate shifts in Greenland due to displacements of the sea ice edge. Geophys. Res. Lett. 32, 10.1029/2005gl023492 (2005).

  14. 14.

    & Two terrestrial records of rapid climatic change during the glacial-Holocene transition (14,000–9,000 calendar years BP) from Europe. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 97, 1390–1394 (2000).

  15. 15.

    & Introduction to the reconstruction of the late-glacial and early-Holocene aquatic ecosystems at Krakenes Lake, Norway. J. Paleolimnol. 23, 1–5 (2000).

  16. 16.

    , , & Allerod-Younger Dryas climatic inferences from Cirque glaciers and vegetational development in the Nordfjord Area, Western Norway. Arctic Alpine Res. 16, 137–160 (1984).

  17. 17.

    & Younger Dryas glaciolacustrine rhythmites and cirque glacier variations at Krakenes, western Norway: Depositional processes and climate. J. Paleolimnol. 31, 49–61 (2004).

  18. 18.

    et al. A new Greenland ice core chronology for the last glacial termination. J. Geophys. Res. 111, 10.1029/2005JD006079 (2006).

  19. 19.

    Development of the radiocarbon calibration program OxCal. Radiocarbon 43, 355–363 (2001).

  20. 20.

    & in Glacio-fluvial Sediment Transfer (eds Gurnell, A. M. & Clark, M. J.) 207–284 (Wiley, 1987).

  21. 21.

    , , , & Utilizing physical sediment variability in glacier-fed lakes for continuous glacier reconstructions during the Holocene, northern Folgefonna, western Norway. Holocene 15, 161–176 (2005).

  22. 22.

    & Local linear mixed effect models—model specification and interpretation in a biological context. J. Agricultural Biol. Envrion. Stat. 12, 414–430 (2007).

  23. 23.

    , & The Younger Dryas—an intrinsic feature of late Pleistocene climate change at millennial timescales. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 222, 741–750 (2004).

  24. 24.

    & Retreat of the cold halocline layer in the Arctic Ocean. J. Geophys. Res. 103, 10419–10435 (1998).

  25. 25.

    & Unstable Younger Dryas climate in the northeast North Atlantic. Geology 32, 673–676 (2004).

  26. 26.

    et al. Major features and forcing of high-latitude northern hemisphere atmospheric circulation using a 110,000-year-long glaciochemical series. J. Geophys. Res. 102, 26345–26366 (1997).

  27. 27.

    et al. The atmosphere during the Younger Dryas. Science 261, 195–197 (1993).

  28. 28.

    et al. High resolution sediment and vegetation responses to Younger Dryas climate change in varved lake sediments from Meerfelder Maar, Germany. Quat. Sci. Rev. 18, 321–329 (1999).

  29. 29.

    et al. The Holocene Younger Dryas transition recorded at Summit, Greenland. Science 278, 825–827 (1997).

  30. 30.

    Abrupt climate change: An alternative view. Quat. Res. 65, 191–203 (2006).

Download references

Acknowledgements

Thanks to A. Nesje and S. O. Dahl for help with the fieldwork at Kråkenes. Thanks to B. Kvisvik for help in the laboratory and to Ø. Paasche for discussions. This is a contribution to X-LAKE and ARCTREC financially supported by the Norwegian Research Council (NCR). The marine work has been financially supported by the Rapid projects VAMOC and ORMEN, supported by the NCR, project number 169931 and 169932/S30. Thanks also to the IMAGES program and R/V Marion Dufresne for making the marine core available for our work. This is publication number A216 from the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Geography, University of Bergen, Fosswinckelsgt 6, N-5020 Bergen, Norway

    • Jostein Bakke
  2. Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, Allégaten 55, N-5007 Bergen, Norway

    • Jostein Bakke
    • , Øyvind Lie
    • , Einar Heegaard
    • , Trond Dokken
    •  & Hilary H. Birks
  3. Department of Biology, University of Bergen, Allégaten 41, N-5007 Bergen, Norway

    • Einar Heegaard
    •  & Hilary H. Birks
  4. Geological Institute, Department of Earth Sciences, ETH Zürich, CH-8092 Zürich, Switzerland

    • Gerald H. Haug
  5. DFG Leibniz Center for Earth Surface Process and Climate Studies, Institute for Geosciences, Potsdam University, Potsdam D-14476, Germany

    • Gerald H. Haug
  6. Section 3.3., GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam, Telegrafenberg, D-14473 Potsdam, Germany

    • Peter Dulski
  7. Department of Mathematics, University of Bergen, Johannes Brunsgate 12, N-5008 Bergen, Norway

    • Trygve Nilsen

Authors

  1. Search for Jostein Bakke in:

  2. Search for Øyvind Lie in:

  3. Search for Einar Heegaard in:

  4. Search for Trond Dokken in:

  5. Search for Gerald H. Haug in:

  6. Search for Hilary H. Birks in:

  7. Search for Peter Dulski in:

  8. Search for Trygve Nilsen in:

Contributions

J.B. and Ø.L. managed the sediment analyses of lake Kråkenes and developed the original conceptual hypothesis. E.H. and T.N. built the statistical toolkits and carried out all statistical analyses. T.D. contributed material, interpretation and analyses from MD99-2284 and developed conceptual ideas. G.H. provided access to GFZ Potsdam’s XRF laboratory and contributed to interpretation and building conceptual hypotheses. H.H.B. provided data from Kråkenes. P.D. managed the XRF laboratory and measurements. All authors collaborated on the text.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jostein Bakke.

Supplementary information

PDF files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Fig. S1

    Supplementary Information

About this article

Publication history

Received

Accepted

Published

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo439

Further reading