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Dampened predictable decadal North Atlantic climate fluctuations due to ice melting


The oscillatory behaviour of the climate system on decadal timescales before the instrumental record is hard to quantify. However, knowledge of this variability is important for putting current changes in context and for supporting reliable future predictions. Here we investigate the recurrent component of Holocene climate variability in the North Atlantic sector from 10,500 to 2,000 years ago by conducting a frequency analysis of both an annually laminated climate record from a lake in England and outputs from a long transient simulation of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation. We find consistent decadal variability over the past 6,700 years and before 8,500 years before present, probably reflecting predominance of solar and ocean forcings. Between these dates, climate variability was dampened on decadal timescales. Our results suggest that meltwater discharge into the North Atlantic and the subsequent hydrographic changes, from the opening of the Hudson Bay until the final collapse of the Laurentide Ice Sheet, disrupted the decadal cyclic signals for more than a millennium. Given the current acceleration of the Greenland Ice Sheet melting in response to global warming, this study provides long-term evidence of potential challenges predicting future patterns of the climate system.

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Fig. 1: Diss Mere proxy record and regional climatic settings.
Fig. 2: Comparison among the terrestrial palaeoclimate proxy record in the United Kingdom, AMOC and Holocene surface temperature at Northern Hemisphere mid-latitudes (10.3–2.1 cal. kyr bp).
Fig. 3: Holocene decadal oscillatory signals in the NA: maximum entropy spectrogram.

Data availability

The varve thickness data that support the findings of this study are available on PANGAEA ( Time-series data of the maximum AMOC at 52° N below 500 m (TraCE-21ka simulation) are available via


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This study was funded by the Royal Society. C.M.-P. is supported by a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship (ref: DH150185) and a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship (MR/W009641/1). A.H. is supported by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation through the Ramón y Cajal Scheme (RYC2020-029253-I). We thank P. Ortega and E. Moreno-Chamarro for valuable discussions. We also thank A. Walsh and G. Biddulph for varve counting in some sections of the record, A. Zhao for plotting complementary climate datasets that helped with the interpretation of the proxy record, A. Brauer and his team for lake coring, and the Diss Council for support during fieldwork.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



C.M-P. led the research, performed the palaeolimnological study and wrote the paper. A.H. contributed to the discussion and interpretation of the results and the writing of the manuscript. E.P.-I. performed the statistical analysis of the proxy data and AMOC simulation and contributed to the writing of the manuscript. L.B. contributed to the palaeoclimate interpretation of the proxy record, data analysis and the writing of the manuscript. C.B. and Z.J. analysed the AMOC in TraCE-21ka simulation, interpreted the results related to the AMOC simulation and contributed to the writing of the manuscript. R.T. measured the XRF data. S.P.E.B. contributed to the chronology of the proxy record. F.J.R.-T. visualized the potential of the proxy record for cyclostratigraphy. All co-authors contributed to the discussion of the results and provided feedback on the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Celia Martin-Puertas.

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Nature Geoscience thanks Paul Zander and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work. Primary Handling Editor: James Super, in collaboration with the Nature Geoscience team.

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Extended data

Extended Data Fig. 1 Correlation of TraCE-21ka simulations and the Diss Mere varve thickness records.

a) Pearson correlation of TraCE-21ka AMOC simulation (t + lag) and the Diss Mere varve thickness (t) with 95% bootstrapped confidence region; b) Pearson correlation of TraCE-21ka Temperature simulation (t + lag) and thickness of the calcite layer in Diss Mere (t) with 95% bootstrapped confidence region; c) Correlation matrix between the Diss Mere varve thickness records and TraCE-21ka simulations. Correlations coefficients discussed in the article are shown in bold.

Extended Data Fig. 2 Time-frequency analysis of the Diss Mere varve and seasonal layers thickness records.

Maximum entropy power spectrograms of total varve thickness / annual signal (top), organic layer thickness / winter signal (middle) and calcite layer thickness / summer signal (bottom). Frequency is given in cycles per year and the colour bar (power) has been represented with a logarithmic scale.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figs. 1–6, Results and Discussion.

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Martin-Puertas, C., Hernandez, A., Pardo-Igúzquiza, E. et al. Dampened predictable decadal North Atlantic climate fluctuations due to ice melting. Nat. Geosci. 16, 357–362 (2023).

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