Intermediate glacial states were characterized by large temperature changes in Greenland and the North Atlantic, referred to as Dansgaard–Oeschger (D–O) variability, with some transitions occurring over a few decades. D–O variability included changes in the strength of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC), temperature changes of opposite sign and asynchronous timing in each hemisphere, shifts in the mean position of the Intertropical Convergence Zone and variations in atmospheric CO2. Palaeorecords and numerical studies indicate that the AMOC, with a tight coupling to Nordic Seas sea ice, is central to D–O variability, yet, a complete theory remains elusive. In this Review, we synthesize the climatic expression and processes proposed to explain D–O cyclicity. What emerges is an oscillatory framework of the AMOC–sea-ice system, arising through feedbacks involving the atmosphere, cryosphere and the Earth’s biogeochemical system. Palaeoclimate observations indicate that the AMOC might be more sensitive to perturbations than climate models currently suggest. Tighter constraints on AMOC stability are, thus, needed to project AMOC changes over the coming century as a response to anthropogenic carbon emissions. Progress can be achieved by additional observational constraints and numerical simulations performed with coupled climate–ice-sheet models.
Abrupt warming events in Greenland and the North Atlantic, referred to as Dansgaard–Oeschger (D–O) events, were associated with a strengthening of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC), and changes in the global climate and carbon cycle.
AMOC changes, with a tight coupling to Nordic Seas sea ice, strongly affect the climate and marine carbon cycle, and, in turn, the ice-sheet mass balance. Resultant changes in oceanic wind stress, ocean heat content and salinity feed back on the AMOC.
Owing to the different timescales of the feedbacks, self-sustained AMOC oscillations could emerge during intermediate glacial states. The boundary conditions of intermediate glacial states (size of ice sheets, Bering Strait throughflow and atmospheric CO2 concentration) appear to be key in enabling these oscillations.
Perturbations other than changes in meltwater input, including changes in atmospheric CO2 or Northern Hemisphere ice-sheet height and extent, can lead to, and may be required for, D–O variability.
The relatively large and frequent AMOC changes associated with D–O variability suggest a relatively low AMOC stability during intermediate glacial states. This low stability is not evident in all numerical experiments performed with coupled climate models, implying that some might either overestimate the AMOC stability or have a mismatch in the required background state for the low-AMOC-stability regime.
Additional observations on the location and strength of North Atlantic Deep Water formation and its link with sea ice, as well as its improved representation in climate models, are needed to better constrain future climate projections.
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $8.25 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Rent or Buy article
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
Lozier, M. S. et al. A sea change in our view of overturning in the subpolar North Atlantic. Science 363, 516–521 (2019).
Rahmstorf, S. et al. Exceptional twentieth-century slowdown in Atlantic Ocean overturning circulation. Nat. Clim. Change 5, 475–480 (2015).
Marchitto, T. M. & deMenocal, P. B. Late Holocene variability of upper North Atlantic deep water temperature and salinity. Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst. 4, 1100 (2003).
Thornalley, D. et al. Anomalously weak Labrador Sea convection and Atlantic overturning during the past 150 years. Nature 556, 227–230 (2018).
Kobashi, T. et al. Volcanic influence on centennial to millennial Holocene Greenland temperature change. Sci. Rep. 7, 1441 (2017).
Stommel, H. Thermohaline convection with two stable regimes of flow. Tellus 13, 224–230 (1961).
Reintges, A., Martin, T., Latif, M. & Keenlyside, N. S. Uncertainty in twenty-first century projections of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation in CMIP3 and CMIP5 models. Clim. Dyn. 49, 1495–1511 (2017).
Hofmann, M. & Rahmstorf, S. On the stability of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 106, 20584–20589 (2009).
Valdes, P. Built for stability. Nat. Geosci. 4, 414–416 (2011).
Henry, L. et al. North Atlantic ocean circulation and abrupt climate change during the last glaciation. Science 353, 470–474 (2016).
Dansgaard, W. et al. A new Greenland deep ice core. Science 218, 1273–1277 (1982).
Dansgaard, W., Johnsen, S. & Clausen, H. Evidence for general instability of past climate from a 250-kyr ice-core record. Nature 364, 218–220 (1993).
North Greenland Ice Core Project members. High-resolution record of the Northern Hemisphere climate extending into the last interglacial period. Nature 431, 147–151 (2004). Presents a highly resolved record of D–O variability in a Greenland ice core.
Kindler, P. et al. Temperature reconstruction from 10 to 120 kyr b2k from the NGRIP ice core. Clim. Past 10, 887–902 (2014).
Heinrich, H. Origin and consequences of cyclic ice rafting in the northeast Atlantic Ocean during the past 130,000 years. Quat. Res. 29, 142–152 (1988).
Bond, G., Heinrich, H., Broecker, W. & Labeyrie, L. Evidence of massive discharges of icebergs into the North Atlantic during the last glacial period. Nature 360, 245–249 (1992).
Bond, G. Correlations between climate records from North Atlantic sediments and Greenland ice. Nature 365, 143–147 (1993). Highlights D–O oscillations in marine sediment cores from the North Atlantic and establishes a link to variations in Greenland ice-core δ18O records.
Hemming, S. Heinrich events: Massive late Pleistocene detritus layers of the North Atlantic and their global climate imprint. Rev. Geophys. 42, RG1005 (2004).
Sánchez-Goñi, M. & Harrison, S. Millennial-scale climate variability and vegetation changes during the last glacial: concepts and terminology. Quat. Sci. Rev. 29, 2823–2827 (2010).
Barker, S. et al. Icebergs not the trigger for North Atlantic cold events. Nature 520, 333–336 (2015).
Naafs, B., Hefter, J. & Stein, R. Millennial-scale ice rafting events and Hudson Strait Heinrich(-like) Events during the late Pliocene and Pleistocene: a review. Quat. Sci. Rev. 80, 1–28 (2013).
Barker, S. et al. 800,000 years of abrupt climate variability. Science 334, 347–351 (2011).
Oppo, D. W., McManus, J. F. & Cullen, J. L. Abrupt climate events 500,000 to 340,000 years ago: evidence from subpolar North Atlantic sediments. Science 279, 1335–1338 (1998).
Raymo, M., Ganley, K., Carter, S., Oppo, D. & McManus, J. Millennial-scale climate instability during the early Pleistocene epoch. Nature 392, 699–702 (1998).
McManus, J. F., Oppo, D. W. & Cullen, J. L. A 0.5-million-year record of millennial-scale climate variability in the North Atlantic. Science 283, 971–975 (1999). Provides evidence for millennial-scale climatic variability in the North Atlantic over the past 500,000 years and, particularly, during intermediate glacial states.
Martrat, B. et al. Four climate cycles of recurring deep and surface water destabilizations on the Iberian margin. Science 317, 502–507 (2007).
Hodell, D. A., Channell, J. E. T., Curtis, J. H., Romero, O. E. & Röhl, U. Onset of “Hudson Strait” Heinrich events in the eastern North Atlantic at the end of the middle Pleistocene transition (~640 ka)? Paleoceanography 23, PA4218 (2008).
Margari, V. et al. The nature of millennial-scale climate variability during the past two glacial periods. Nat. Geosci. 3, 127–131 (2010).
Bailey, I. et al. Flux and provenance of ice-rafted debris in the earliest Pleistocene sub-polar North Atlantic Ocean comparable to the last glacial maximum. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 341-344, 222–233 (2012).
Obrochta, S. P. et al. Climate variability and ice-sheet dynamics during the last three glaciations. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 406, 198–212 (2014).
Birner, B., Hodell, D. A., Tzedakis, P. C. & Skinner, L. C. Similar millennial climate variability on the Iberian margin during two early Pleistocene glacials and MIS 3. Paleoceanography 31, 203–217 (2016).
Hodell, D. A. & Channell, J. E. T. Mode transitions in Northern Hemisphere glaciation: co-evolution of millennial and orbital variability in Quaternary climate. Clim. Past 12, 1805–1828 (2016).
Rodrigues, T. et al. A 1-Ma record of sea surface temperature and extreme cooling events in the North Atlantic: a perspective from the Iberian Margin. Quat. Sci. Rev. 172, 118–130 (2017).
Shackleton, N. Oxygen isotopes, ice volume and sea level. Quat. Sci. Rev. 6, 183–190 (1987).
Schulz, M., Berger, W., Sarnthein, M. & Grootes, P. Amplitude variations of 1470-year climate oscillations during the last 100,000 years linked to fluctuations of continental ice mass. Geophys. Res. Lett. 22, 3385–3388 (1999).
Siddall, M., Rohling, E. J., Thompson, W. G. & Waelbroeck, C. Marine isotope stage 3 sea level fluctuations: data synthesis and new outlook. Rev. Geophys. 46, RG4003 (2008).
Kawamura, K. et al. State dependence of climatic instability over the past 720,000 years from Antarctic ice cores and climate modeling. Sci. Adv. 3, e1600446 (2017).
Ganopolski, A. & Rahmstorf, S. Rapid changes of glacial climate simulated in a coupled climate model. Nature 409, 153–158 (2001). Reports modelling results that suggest that D–O variability is due to AMOC changes, and introduces the idea of the AMOC flickering between three states.
Menviel, L., Timmermann, A., Friedrich, T. & England, M. Hindcasting the continuum of Dansgaard–Oeschger variability: mechanisms, patterns and timing. Clim. Past 10, 63–77 (2014).
Lynch-Stieglitz, J. The Atlantic meridional overturning circulation and abrupt climate change. Annu. Rev. Mar. Sci. 9, 83–104 (2017).
Hoff, U., Rasmussen, T., Stein, R., Ezat, M. & Fahl, K. Sea ice and millennial-scale climate variability in the Nordic Seas 90 kyr to present. Nat. Commun. 7, 12247 (2016).
Sadatzki, H. et al. Sea ice variability in the southern Norwegian Sea during glacial Dansgaard-Oeschger climate cycles. Sci. Adv. 5, eaau6174 (2019).
Wang, Y. et al. A high-resolution absolute-dated Late Pleistocene monsoon record from Hulu Cave, China. Science 294, 2345–2348 (2001).
EPICA Community Members. One-to-one coupling of glacial climate variability in Greenland and Antarctica. Nature 444, 195–198 (2006).
Deplazes, G. et al. Links between tropical rainfall and North Atlantic climate during the last glacial period. Nat. Geosci. 6, 213–217 (2013).
Ahn, J. & Brook, E. Siple Dome ice reveals two modes of millennial CO2 change during the last ice age. Nat. Commun. 5, 3723 (2014).
Bond, G. & Lotti, R. Iceberg discharges into the North Atlantic on millennial time scales during the last glaciation. Science 267, 1005–1010 (1995).
Dokken, T. & Jansen, E. Rapid changes in the mechanism of ocean convection during the last glacial period. Nature 401, 458–461 (1999).
van Kreveld, S. et al. Potential links between surging ice sheets, circulation changes, and the Dansgaard-Oeschger cycles in the Irminger Sea, 60–18 kyr. Paleoceanography 15, 425–442 (2000).
Dickson, A. J., Austin, W. E. N., Hall, I. R., Maslin, M. A. & Kucera, M. Centennial-scale evolution of Dansgaard-Oeschger events in the northeast Atlantic Ocean between 39.5 and 56.5 ka BP. Paleoceanography 23, PA3206 (2008).
Hodell, D., Evans, H., Channell, J. & Curtis, J. Phase relationships of North Atlantic ice-rafted debris and surface-deep climate proxies during the last glacial period. Quat. Sci. Rev. 29, 3875–3886 (2010).
Manabe, S. & Stouffer, R. Simulation of abrupt climate change induced by freshwater input to the North Atlantic Ocean. Nature 378, 165–167 (1995).
Stouffer, R. et al. Investigating the causes of the response of the thermohaline circulation to past and future climate changes. J. Clim. 19, 1365–1387 (2006).
Broecker, W. S., Bond, G., Klas, M., Bonani, G. & Wolfli, W. A salt oscillator in the glacial Atlantic? 1. The concept. Paleoceanogr. Paleoclimatol. 5, 469–477 (1990).
Peltier, W. R. & Vettoretti, G. Dansgaard-Oeschger oscillations predicted in a comprehensive model of glacial climate: A “kicked” salt oscillator in the Atlantic. Geophys. Res. Lett. 41, 7306–7313 (2014).
Brown, N. & Galbraith, E. D. Hosed vs. unhosed: interruptions of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation in a global coupled model, with and without freshwater forcing. Clim. Past 12, 1663–1679 (2016).
Vettoretti, G. & Peltier, W. R. Thermohaline instability and the formation of glacial North Atlantic super polynyas at the onset of Dansgaard-Oeschger warming events. Geophys. Res. Lett. 43, 5336–5344 (2016).
Klockmann, M., Mikolajewicz, U. & Marotzke, J. Two AMOC states in response to decreasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the coupled climate model MPI-ESM. J. Clim. 31, 7969–7984 (2018).
Zhang, X., Lohmann, G., Knorr, G. & Purcell, C. Abrupt glacial climate shifts controlled by ice sheet changes. Nature 512, 290–294 (2014). Shows that slow and moderate changes in LIS height or CO2 concentration can trigger abrupt AMOC changes in a fully coupled climate model.
Zhang, X., Knorr, G., Lohmann, G. & Barker, S. Abrupt North Atlantic circulation changes in response to gradual CO2 forcing in a glacial climate state. Nat. Geosci. 10, 518–523 (2017).
Wolff, E., Chappellaz, J., Blunier, T., Rasmussen, S. & Svensson, A. Millennial-scale variability during the last glacial: the ice core record. Quat. Sci. Rev. 29, 2828–2838 (2010).
Allen, J. R. M. et al. Rapid environmental changes in southern Europe during the last glacial period. Nature 400, 740–743 (1999).
Genty, D. et al. Precise dating of Dansgaard–Oeschger climate oscillations in western Europe from stalagmite data. Nature 421, 833–837 (2003).
Margari, V., Gibbard, P., Bryant, C. & Tzedakis, P. Character of vegetational and environmental changes in southern Europe during the last glacial period; evidence from Lesvos Island, Greece. Quat. Sci. Rev. 28, 1317–1339 (2009).
Cacho, I. et al. Dansgaard-Oeschger and Heinrich event imprints in Alboran Sea paleotemperatures. Paleoceanography 14, 698–705 (1999).
Martrat, B. et al. Abrupt temperature changes in the Western Mediterranean over the past 250,000 years. Science 306, 1762–1765 (2004).
Rasmussen, T. L. & Thomsen, E. The role of the North Atlantic Drift in the millennial timescale glacial climate fluctuations. Palaeogeogr. Palaeoclimatol. Palaeoecol. 210, 101–116 (2004).
Böhm, E. et al. Strong and deep Atlantic meridional overturning circulation during the last glacial cycle. Nature 517, 73–76 (2015).
Burckel, P. et al. Atlantic Ocean circulation changes preceded millennial tropical South America rainfall events during the last glacial. Geophys. Res. Lett. 42, 411–418 (2015).
Keigwin, L. D. & Boyle, E. A. Surface and deep ocean variability in the northern Sargasso Sea during marine isotope stage 3. Paleoceanography 14, 164–170 (1999).
Shackleton, N., Hall, M. & Vincent, E. Phase relationships between millennial-scale events 64,000–24,000 years ago. Paleoceanography 15, 565–569 (2000).
Skinner, L. C. & Elderfield, H. Rapid fluctuations in the deep North Atlantic heat budget during the last glacial period. Paleoceanography 22, PA1205 (2007).
Lynch-Stieglitz, J. et al. Muted change in Atlantic overturning circulation over some glacial-aged Heinrich events. Nat. Geosci. 7, 144–150 (2014).
Piotrowski, A. M., Goldstein, S. L., Hemming, S. R. & Fairbanks, R. G. Temporal relationships of carbon cycling and ocean circulation at glacial boundaries. Science 307, 1933–1938 (2005).
Piotrowski, A., Goldstein, S., Hemming, S. R., Fairbanks, R. & Zylberberg, D. Oscillating glacial northern and southern deep water formation from combined neodynium and carbon isotopes. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 272, 394–405 (2008).
Gottschalk, J. et al. Abrupt changes in the southern extent of North Atlantic Deep Water during Dansgaard–Oeschger events. Nat. Geosci. 8, 950–954 (2015).
Trenberth, K. & Caron, J. Estimates of meridional atmosphere and ocean heat transports. J. Clim. 14, 3433–3443 (2001).
Johns, W. E. et al. Continuous, array-based estimates of Atlantic Ocean heat transport at 26.5°N. J. Clim. 24, 2429–2449 (2011).
Kageyama, M. et al. Climatic impacts of fresh water hosing under Last Glacial Maximum conditions: a multi-model study. Clim. Past 9, 935–953 (2013).
Li, C., Battisti, D., Schrag, D. & Tziperman, E. Abrupt climate shifts in Greenland due to displacements of the sea ice edge. Geophys. Res. Lett. 32, L19702 (2005).
Dokken, T., Nisancioglu, K., Li, C., Battisti, D. & Kissel, C. Dansgaard-Oeschger cycles: Interactions between ocean and sea ice intrinsic to the Nordic seas. Paleoceanography 28, 491–502 (2013). Presents observational evidence for the expression of D–O variability in the Nordic Seas, highlighting the possibility of the occurrence of convective overturning events.
Ezat, M. M., Rasmussen, T. L. & Groeneveld, J. Persistent intermediate water warming during cold stadials in the southeastern Nordic seas during the past 65 ky. Geology 42, 663–666 (2014).
Müller, J. & Stein, R. High-resolution record of late glacial and deglacial sea ice changes in Fram Strait corroborates ice–ocean interactions during abrupt climate shifts. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 403, 446–455 (2014).
He, C. et al. North Atlantic subsurface temperature response controlled by effective freshwater input in “Heinrich” events. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 539, 116247 (2020).
Trenberth, K. E. & Fasullo, J. T. Atlantic meridional heat transports computed from balancing Earth’s energy locally. Geophys. Res. Lett. 44, 1919–1927 (2017).
Berger, W. & Wefer, G. The South Atlantic (Springer, 1996).
Schmittner, A., Saenko, O. & Weaver, A. Coupling of the hemispheres in observations and simulations of glacial climate change. Quat. Sci. Rev. 22, 659–671 (2003).
Stocker, T. F. & Johnsen, S. J. A minimum thermodynamic model for the bipolar seesaw. Paleoceanography 18, 1087 (2003).
Barker, S. & Diz, P. Timing of the descent into the last Ice Age determined by the bipolar seesaw. Paleoceanography 29, 489–507 (2014).
Gottschalk, J., Skinner, L. C. & Waelbroeck, C. Contribution of seasonal sub-Antarctic surface water variability to millennial-scale changes in atmospheric CO2 over the last deglaciation and Marine Isotope Stage 3. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 411, 87–99 (2015).
Gottschalk, J. et al. Southern Ocean link between changes in atmospheric CO2 levels and northern-hemisphere climate anomalies during the last two glacial periods. Quat. Sci. Rev. 230, 106067 (2020).
Kaiser, J., Lamy, F. & Hebbeln, D. A 70-kyr sea surface temperature record off Southern Chile. Paleoceanography 20, PA4009 (2005).
Pahnke, K., Zahn, R., Elderfield, H. & Schulz, M. 340,000-year centennial-scale marine record of Southern Hemisphere climatic oscillation. Science 301, 948–952 (2003).
Caniupán, M. et al. Millennial-scale sea surface temperature and Patagonian Ice Sheet changes off southernmost Chile (53°S) over the past ~60 kyr. Paleoceanography 26, PA3221 (2011).
Blunier, T. & Brook, E. Timing of millennial-scale climate change in Antarctica and Greenland during the last glacial period. Science 291, 109–112 (2001).
Parrenin, F. et al. Synchronous change of atmospheric CO2 and Antarctic temperature during the last deglacial warming. Science 339, 1060–1063 (2013).
WAIS Divide Project Members. Precise interpolar phasing of abrupt climate change during the last ice age. Nature 520, 661–665 (2015). Shows that Greenland temperature changes lead Antarctic temperature changes by ~200 years, suggesting North Atlantic control of D–O variability and an oceanic teleconnection to high southern latitudes.
Broecker, W. Paleocean circulation during the last deglaciation: a bipolar seesaw? Paleoceanography 13, 119–121 (1998).
Sánchez-Goñi, M., Turon, J.-L., Eynaud, F. & Gendreau, S. European climatic response to millennial-scale changes in the atmosphere–ocean system during the last glacial period. Quat. Res. 54, 394–403 (2000).
Sánchez-Goñi, M. et al. Synchroneity between marine and terrestrial responses to millennial scale climatic variability during the last glacial period in the Mediterranean region. Clim. Dyn. 19, 95–105 (2002).
Tzedakis, P. et al. Ecological thresholds and patterns of millennial-scale climate variability: the response of vegetation in Greece during the last glacial period. Geology 32, 109–112 (2004).
Stockhecke, M. et al. Millennial to orbital-scale variations of drought intensity in the Eastern Mediterranean. Quat. Sci. Rev. 133, 77–95 (2016).
Wang, X. et al. Millennial-scale precipitation changes in southern Brazil over the past 90,000 years. Geophys. Res. Lett. 34, L23701 (2007).
Kanner, L., Burns, S., Cheng, H. & Edwards, R. L. High-latitude forcing of the South American summer monsoon during the last glacial. Science 335, 570–573 (2013).
Mosblech, N. et al. North Atlantic forcing of Amazonian precipitation during the last ice age. Nat. Geosci. 5, 817–820 (2012).
Ivanochko, T. et al. Variations in tropical convection as an amplifier of global climate change at the millennial scale. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 235, 302–314 (2005).
Pausata, F., Battisti, D., Nisancioglu, K. & Bitz, C. Chinese stalagmite δ18O controlled by changes in the Indian monsoon during a simulated Heinrich event. Nat. Geosci. 4, 474–480 (2011).
Marzin, C., Kallel, N., Kageyama, M., Duplessy, J.-C. & Braconnot, P. Glacial fluctuations of the Indian monsoon and their relationship with North Atlantic climate: new data and modelling experiments. Clim. Past 9, 2135–2151 (2013).
Lauterbach, S. et al. An ~130 kyr record of surface water temperature and δ18O from the northern Bay of Bengal: investigating the linkage between Heinrich events and weak monsoon intervals in Asia. Paleoceanogr. Paleoclimatol. 35, e2019PA003646 (2020).
Wang, Y. et al. Millennial- and orbital-scale changes in the East Asian monsoon over the past 224,000 years. Nature 451, 1090–1093 (2008).
Cheng, H. et al. Ice age terminations. Science 326, 248–252 (2009).
Schneider, T., Bischoff, T. & Haug, G. Migrations and dynamics of the intertropical convergence zone. Nature 513, 45–53 (2014).
Broecker, W., Peteet, D. & Rind, D. Does the ocean–atmosphere system have more than one stable mode of operation? Nature 315, 21–26 (1985). One of the first suggestions that the millennial-scale temperature changes observed in Greenland ice cores and in Europe are due to changes in NADW formation and that there could be two quasi-stable modes in the climate system.
Menviel, L., Timmermann, A., Mouchet, A. & Timm, O. Climate and marine carbon cycle response to changes in the strength of the southern hemispheric westerlies. Paleoceanography 23, PA4201 (2008).
Marcott, S. et al. Ice-shelf collapse from subsurface warming as trigger for Heinrich events. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 108, 13415–13419 (2011). Provides evidence for subsurface warming in the North Atlantic during stadials and suggests that this warming led to a destabilization of the LIS.
Rainsley, E. et al. Greenland ice mass loss during the Younger Dryas driven by Atlantic meridional overturning circulation feedbacks. Sci. Rep. 8, 11307 (2018).
McManus, J. F., Francois, R., Gherardi, J. M., Keigwin, L. D. & Brown-Leger, S. Collapse and rapid resumption of Atlantic meridional circulation linked to deglacial climate changes. Nature 428, 834–837 (2004).
Curry, W. B. & Oppo, D. W. Synchronous, high-frequency oscillations in tropical sea surface temperatures and North Atlantic Deep Water production during the last glacial cycle. Paleoceanography 12, 1–14 (1997).
Vidal, L. et al. Evidence for changes in the North Atlantic deep water linked to meltwater surges during the Heinrich events. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 146, 13–27 (1997).
Zahn, R. et al. Thermohaline instability in the North Atlantic during meltwater events: stable isotope and ice-rafted detritus records from core SO75-26KL, Portuguese Margin. Paleoceanography 12, 696–710 (1997).
Weldeab, S., Lea, D., Schneider, R. & Andersen, N. 155,000 years of West African Monsoon and ocean thermal evolution. Science 316, 1303–1307 (2007).
Hodell, D. et al. An 85-ka record of climate change in lowland Central America. Quat. Sci. Rev. 27, 1152–1165 (2008).
Cai, Y. et al. Variability of stalagmite-inferred Indian monsoon precipitation over the past 252,000 y. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 112, 2954–2959 (2015).
Wang, X. et al. Wet periods in northeastern Brazil over the past 210 kyr linked to distant climate anomalies. Nature 432, 740–743 (2004).
Leduc, G. et al. Moisture transport across Central America as a positive feedback on abrupt climatic changes. Nature 445, 908–911 (2007).
Carolin, S. A. et al. Varied response of western pacific hydrology to climate forcings over the last glacial period. Science 340, 1564–1566 (2013).
Timmermann, A. et al. Towards a quantitative understanding of millennial-scale Antarctic warming events. Quat. Sci. Rev. 29, 74–85 (2010).
Buiron, D. et al. Regional imprints of millennial variability during the MIS 3 period around Antarctica. Quat. Sci. Rev. 48, 99–112 (2012).
Skinner, L., Waelbroeck, C., Scrivner, A. & Fallon, S. Radiocarbon evidence for alternating northern and southern sources of ventilation of the deep Atlantic carbon pool during the last deglaciation. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 111, 5480–5484 (2014).
Gottschalk, J. et al. Biological and physical controls in the Southern Ocean on past millennial-scale atmospheric CO2 changes. Nat. Commun. 7, 11539 (2016).
Jaccard, S., Galbraith, E., Martinez-Garcia, A. & Anderson, R. Covariation of deep Southern Ocean oxygenation and atmospheric CO2 through the last ice age. Nature 530, 207–210 (2016).
Menviel, L., Spence, P. & England, M. Contribution of enhanced Antarctic bottom water formation to Antarctic warm events and millennial-scale atmospheric CO2 increase. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 413, 37–50 (2015).
Pedro, J. B. et al. Southern Ocean deep convection as a driver of Antarctic warming events. Geophys. Res. Lett. 43, 2192–2199 (2016).
Menviel, L. et al. Southern Hemisphere westerlies as a driver of the early deglacial atmospheric CO2 rise. Nat. Commun. 9, 2503 (2018).
Pedro, J. B. et al. Beyond the bipolar seesaw: toward a process understanding of interhemispheric coupling. Quat. Sci. Rev. 192, 27–46 (2018).
Hwang, Y.-T., Frierson, D. M. W. & Kang, S. M. Anthropogenic sulfate aerosol and the southward shift of tropical precipitation in the late 20th century. Geophys. Res. Lett. 40, 2845–2850 (2013).
Ceppi, P., Hwang, Y.-T., Liu, X., Frierson, D. & Hartmann, D. The relationship between the ITCZ and the Southern Hemispheric eddy-driven jet. J. Geophys. Res. Atmos. 118, 5136–5146 (2013).
Lee, S.-Y., Chiang, J. C. H., Matsumoto, K. & Tokos, K. S. Southern Ocean wind response to North Atlantic cooling and the rise in atmospheric CO2: modeling perspective and paleoceanographic implications. Paleoceanography 26, PA1214 (2011).
Buizert, C. et al. Abrupt ice-age shifts in southern westerly winds and Antarctic climate forced from the north. Nature 563, 681–685 (2018).
Toggweiler, J., Russell, J. & Carson, S. Midlatitude westerlies, atmospheric CO2, and climate change during ice ages. Paleoceanography 21, PA2005 (2006).
Ahn, J. & Brook, E. Atmospheric CO2 and climate on millennial time scales during the last glacial period. Science 322, 83–85 (2008).
Stein, K., Timmermann, A., Kwon, E. Y. & Friedrich, T. Timing and magnitude of Southern Ocean sea ice/carbon cycle feedbacks. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 117, 4498–4504 (2020).
Okazaki, Y. et al. Deep water formation in the North Pacific during the last glacial termination. Science 329, 200–204 (2010).
Max, L. et al. Pulses of enhanced North Pacific Intermediate Water ventilation from the Okhotsk Sea and Bering Sea during the last deglaciation. Clim. Past 10, 591–605 (2014).
Zheng, X. et al. Deepwater circulation variation in the South China Sea since the Last Glacial Maximum. Geophys. Res. Lett. 43, 8590–8599 (2016).
Saenko, O., Schmittner, A. & Weaver, A. The Atlantic–Pacific seesaw. J. Clim. 17, 2033–2038 (2004).
Chikamoto, M. et al. Variability in North Pacific intermediate and deep water ventilation during Heinrich events in two coupled climate models. Deep Sea Res. II 61–64, 114–126 (2012).
Gong, X. et al. Enhanced North Pacific deep-ocean stratification by stronger intermediate water formation during Heinrich Stadial 1. Nat. Commun. 10, 656 (2019).
Menviel, L., England, M., Meissner, K., Mouchet, A. & Yu, J. Atlantic-Pacific seesaw and its role in outgassing CO2 during Heinrich events. Paleoceanography 29, 58–70 (2014).
Rasmussen, T., Thomsen, E., Labeyrie, L. & van Weering, T. Circulation changes in the Faeroe-Shetland Channel correlating with cold events during the last glacial period (58–10 ka). Geology 24, 937–940 (1996).
Kissel, C., Laj, C., Piotrowski, A., Goldstein, S. & Hemming, S. Millennial-scale propagation of Atlantic deep waters to the glacial Southern Ocean. Paleoceanography 23, PA2102 (2008).
Fleitmann, D. et al. Timing and climatic impact of Greenland interstadials recorded in stalagmites from northern Turkey. Geophys. Res. Lett. 36, L19707 (2009).
Fletcher, W. et al. Millennial-scale variability during the last glacial in vegetation records from Europe. Quat. Sci. Rev. 29, 2839–2864 (2010).
Müller, U. et al. The role of climate in the spread of modern humans into Europe. Quat. Sci. Rev. 30, 273–279 (2011).
Brook, E. J., Harder, S., Severinghaus, J., Steig, E. & Sucher, C. On the origin and timing of rapid changes in atmospheric methane during the last glacial period. Glob. Biogeochem. Cycles 14, 559–572 (2000).
Chappellaz, J. et al. Synchronous changes in atmospheric CH4 and Greenland climate between 40 and 8 kyr BP. Nature 366, 443–445 (1993).
Brook, E. J., Sowers, T. & Orchardo, J. Rapid variations in atmospheric methane concentrations during the past 110,000 years. Science 273, 1087–1091 (1996).
Bergamaschi, P. et al. Satellite chartography of atmospheric methane from SCIAMACHY on board ENVISAT: 2. Evaluation based on inverse model simulations. J. Geophys. Res. Atmos. 112, D02304 (2007).
Rhodes, R. et al. Enhanced tropical methane production in response to iceberg discharge in the North Atlantic. Science 348, 1016–1019 (2015).
Tzedakis, P., Pälike, H., Roucoux, K. & de Abreu, L. Atmospheric methane, southern European vegetation and low-mid latitude links on orbital and millennial timescales. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 277, 307–317 (2009).
Timmermann, A., Schulz, M., Gildor, H. & Tziperman, E. Coherent resonant millennial-scale climate oscillations triggered by massive meltwater pulses. J. Clim. 16, 2569–2585 (2003).
Alley, R. B., Anandakrishnan, S. & Jung, P. Stochastic resonance in the North Atlantic. Paleoceanography 16, 190–198 (2001).
Ganopolski, A. & Rahmstorf, S. Abrupt glacial climate changes due to stochastic resonance. Phys. Rev. Lett. 88, 038501 (2002).
Krebs, U. & Timmermann, A. Tropical air–sea interactions accelerate the recovery of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation after a major shutdown. J. Clim. 20, 4940–4956 (2007).
Richter, I. & Xie, S.-P. Moisture transport from the Atlantic to the Pacific basin and its response to North Atlantic cooling and global warming. Clim. Dyn. 35, 551–566 (2010).
Friedrich, T. et al. The mechanism behind internally generated centennial-to-millennial scale climate variability in an earth system model of intermediate complexity. Geosci. Model Dev. 3, 377–389 (2010).
Drijfhout, S., Gleeson, E., Dijkstra, H. A. & Livina, V. Spontaneous abrupt climate change due to an atmospheric blocking–sea-ice–ocean feedback in an unforced climate model simulation. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 110, 19713–19718 (2013).
Kleppin, H., Jochum, M., Otto-Bliesner, B., Shields, C. A. & Yeager, S. Stochastic atmospheric forcing as a cause of Greenland climate transitions. J. Clim. 28, 7741–7763 (2015).
Singh, H. A., Battisti, D. S. & Bitz, C. M. A heuristic model of Dansgaard–Oeschger cycles. Part I: description, results, and sensitivity studies. J. Clim. 27, 4337–4358 (2014).
Petersen, S., Schrag, D. & Clark, P. A new mechanism for Dansgaard-Oeschger cycles. Paleoceanography 28, 24–30 (2013).
Boers, N., Ghil, M. & Rousseau, D.-D. Ocean circulation, ice shelf, and sea ice interactions explain Dansgaard–Oeschger cycles. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 115, E11005–E11014 (2018).
Hulbe, C. L., MacAyeal, D. R., Denton, G. H., Kleman, J. & Lowell, T. V. Catastrophic ice shelf breakup as the source of Heinrich event icebergs. Paleoceanography 19, PA1004 (2004).
Cofaigh, C. et al. The role of meltwater in high-latitude trough-mouth fan development: the Disko Trough-Mouth Fan, West Greenland. Mar. Geol. 402, 17–32 (2018).
Jennings, A. E. et al. Baffin Bay paleoenvironments in the LGM and HS1: resolving the ice-shelf question. Mar. Geol. 402, 5–16 (2018).
Obase, T. & Abe-Ouchi, A. Abrupt Bølling-Allerød warming simulated under gradual forcing of the last deglaciation. Geophys. Res. Lett. 46, 11397–11405 (2019).
Guo, C., Nisancioglu, K. H., Bentsen, M., Bethke, I. & Zhang, Z. Equilibrium simulations of Marine Isotope Stage 3 climate. Clim. Past 15, 1133–1151 (2019).
Marshall, S. & Koutnik, M. Ice sheet action versus reaction: distinguishing between Heinrich events and Dansgaard-Oeschger cycles in the North Atlantic. Paleoceanography 21, PA2021 (2006).
Alvarez-Solas, J., Banderas, R., Robinson, A. & Montoya, M. Ocean-driven millennial-scale variability of the Eurasian ice sheet during the last glacial period simulated with a hybrid ice-sheet–shelf model. Clim. Past 15, 957–979 (2019).
Zhang, X., Prange, M., Merkel, U. & Schulz, M. Instability of the Atlantic overturning circulation during Marine Isotope Stage 3. Geophys. Res. Lett. 41, 4285–4293 (2014).
Yokoyama, Y., Esat, T. & Lambeck, K. Coupled climate and sea-level changes deduced from Huon Peninsula coral terraces of the last ice age. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 193, 579–587 (2001).
Chappell, J. Sea level changes forced ice breakouts in the last glacial cycle: new results from coral terraces. Quat. Sci. Rev. 21, 1229–1240 (2002).
Rohling, E., Marsh, R., Wells, N., Siddall, M. & Edwards, N. Similar meltwater contributions to glacial sea level changes from Antarctic and northern ice sheets. Nature 430, 1016–1021 (2004).
Arz, H. W., Lamy, F., Ganopolski, A., Nowaczyk, N. & Pätzold, J. Dominant Northern Hemisphere climate control over millennial-scale glacial sea-level variability. Quat. Sci. Rev. 26, 312–321 (2007).
MacAyeal, D. Binge/purge oscillations of the Laurentide ice sheet as a cause of the North Atlantic’s Heinrich events. Paleoceanography 8, 775–784 (1993). Suggests that Heinrich events are due to growth–purge oscillations of the LIS.
Calov, R., Ganopolski, A., Petoukhov, V., Claussen, M. & Greve, R. Large-scale instabilities of the Laurentide ice sheet simulated in a fully coupled climate-system model. Geophys. Res. Lett. 29, 2216 (2002).
Calov, R. et al. Results from the Ice-Sheet Model Intercomparison Project–Heinrich Event INtercOmparison (ISMIP HEINO). J. Glaciol. 56, 371–383 (2010).
Shaffer, G., Olsen, S. & Bjerrum, C. Ocean subsurface warming as a mechanism for coupling Dansgaard-Oeschger climate cycles and ice-rafting events. Geophys. Res. Lett. 31, L24202 (2004).
Mignot, J., Ganopolski, A. & Levermann, A. Atlantic subsurface temperatures: response to a shutdown of the overturning circulation and consequences for its recovery. J. Clim. 20, 4884–4898 (2007).
Massom, R. et al. Antarctic ice shelf disintegration triggered by sea ice loss and ocean swell. Nature 558, 383–389 (2018).
Greene, C. A., Young, D. A., Gwyther, D. E., Galton-Fenzi, B. K. & Blankenship, D. D. Seasonal dynamics of Totten Ice Shelf controlled by sea ice buttressing. Cryosphere 12, 2869–2882 (2018).
Alvarez-Solas, J. et al. Links between ocean temperature and iceberg discharge during Heinrich events. Nat. Geosci. 3, 122–126 (2010).
Alvarez-Solas, J., Robinson, A., Montoya, M. & Ritz, C. Iceberg discharges of the last glacial period driven by oceanic circulation changes. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 110, 16350–16354 (2013).
Tabone, I., Robinson, A., Alvarez-Solas, J. & Montoya, M. Impact of millennial-scale oceanic variability on the Greenland ice-sheet evolution throughout the last glacial period. Clim. Past 15, 593–609 (2019).
Bassis, J., Petersen, S. & Cathles, L. M. Heinrich events triggered by ocean forcing and modulated by isostatic adjustment. Nature 542, 332–334 (2017).
Roberts, W. H. G., Valdes, P. J. & Payne, A. J. Topography’s crucial role in Heinrich Events. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 111, 16688–16693 (2014).
Andres, H. J. & Tarasov, L. Towards understanding potential atmospheric contributions to abrupt climate changes: characterizing changes to the North Atlantic eddy-driven jet over the last deglaciation. Clim. Past 15, 1621–1646 (2019).
Ziemen, F. A., Kapsch, M.-L., Klockmann, M. & Mikolajewicz, U. Heinrich events show two-stage climate response in transient glacial simulations. Clim. Past 15, 153–168 (2019).
Carlson, A. E., Tarasov, L. & Pico, T. Rapid Laurentide ice-sheet advance towards southern last glacial maximum limit during marine isotope stage 3. Quat. Sci. Rev. 196, 118–123 (2018).
Clark, P. U. et al. Freshwater forcing of abrupt climate change during the last glaciation. Science 293, 283–287 (2001).
Galaasen, E. V. et al. Rapid reductions in North Atlantic Deep Water during the peak of the last interglacial period. Science 343, 1129–1132 (2014).
Tzedakis, P. et al. Enhanced climate instability in the North Atlantic and southern Europe during the Last Interglacial. Nat. Commun. 9, 4235 (2018).
Galaasen, E. V. et al. Interglacial instability of North Atlantic Deep Water ventilation. Science 367, 1485–1489 (2020).
Irvali, N. et al. Evidence for regional cooling, frontal advances, and East Greenland Ice Sheet changes during the demise of the last interglacial. Quat. Sci. Rev. 150, 184–199 (2016).
Oka, A., Hasumi, H. & Abe-Ouchi, A. The thermal threshold of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation and its control by wind stress forcing during glacial climate. Geophys. Res. Lett. 39, L09709 (2012).
Hu, A. et al. Role of the Bering Strait on the hysteresis of the ocean conveyor belt circulation and glacial climate stability. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 107, 6417–6422 (2012).
Hu, A. et al. Effects of the Bering Strait closure on AMOC and global climate under different background climates. Prog. Oceanogr. 132, 174–196 (2015).
de Boer, A. M. & Nof, D. The exhaust valve of the North Atlantic. J. Clim. 17, 417–422 (2004).
Menviel, L. et al. Removing the North Pacific halocline: effects on global climate, ocean circulation and the carbon cycle. Deep Sea Res. II 61–64, 106–113 (2012).
Curry, W. & Oppo, D. Glacial water mass geometry and the distribution of δ13C of ΣCO2 in the western Atlantic Ocean. Paleoceanography 20, PA1017 (2005).
Marchitto, T. & Broecker, W. Deep water mass geometry in the glacial Atlantic Ocean: a review of constraints from the paleonutrient proxy Cd/Ca. Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst. 7, Q12003 (2006).
Lynch-Stieglitz, J. et al. Meridional overturning circulation in the South Atlantic at the last glacial maximum. Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst. 7, Q10N03 (2006).
Menviel, L. et al. Poorly ventilated deep ocean at the Last Glacial Maximum inferred from carbon isotopes: a data-model comparison study. Paleoceanography 32, 2–17 (2017).
Skinner, L. et al. Radiocarbon constraints on the glacial ocean circulation and its impact on atmospheric CO2. Nat. Commun. 8, 16010 (2017).
Muglia, J. & Schmittner, A. Glacial Atlantic overturning increased by wind stress in climate models. Geophys. Res. Lett. 42, 9862–9868 (2015).
Kageyama, M. et al. The PMIP4-CMIP6 Last Glacial Maximum experiments: preliminary results and comparison with the PMIP3-CMIP5 simulations. Clim. Past Discuss. 2020, 1–37 (2020).
Sherriff-Tadano, S., Abe-Ouchi, A., Yoshimori, M., Oka, A. & Chan, W.-L. Influence of glacial ice sheets on the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation through surface wind change. Clim. Dyn. 50, 2881–2903 (2018).
Born, A. & Stocker, T. F. Two stable equilibria of the Atlantic subpolar gyre. J. Phys. Oceanogr. 44, 246–264 (2014).
Li, C. & Born, A. Coupled atmosphere-ice-ocean dynamics in Dansgaard-Oeschger events. Quat. Sci. Rev. 203, 1–20 (2019).
Heuzé, C. North Atlantic deep water formation and AMOC in CMIP5 models. Ocean Sci. 13, 609–622 (2017).
Jensen, M. F., Nisancioglu, K. H. & Spall, M. A. Large changes in sea ice triggered by small changes in Atlantic water temperature. J. Clim. 31, 4847–4863 (2018).
Menviel, L. C. et al. Enhanced mid-depth southward transport in the northeast Atlantic at the last glacial maximum despite a weaker AMOC. Paleoceanogr. Paleoclimatol. 35, e2019PA003793 (2020).
Toggweiler, J. & Samuels, B. Effect of Drake Passage on the global thermohaline circulation. Deep Sea Res. I 42, 477–500 (1995).
Delworth, T. L. & Zeng, F. Simulated impact of altered Southern Hemisphere winds on the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation. Geophys. Res. Lett. 35, L20708 (2008).
Gent, P. R. Effects of Southern Hemisphere wind changes on the meridional overturning circulation in ocean models. Annu. Rev. Mar. Sci. 8, 79–94 (2016).
Swingedouw, D., Fichefet, T., Goosse, H. & Loutre, M.-F. Impact of transient freshwater releases in the Southern Ocean on the AMOC and climate. Clim. Dyn. 33, 365–381 (2009).
Martin, T., Park, W. & Latif, M. Multi-centennial variability controlled by Southern Ocean convection in the Kiel Climate Model. Clim. Dyn. 40, 2005–2022 (2013).
Bond, G. et al. A pervasive millennial-scale cycle in North Atlantic Holocene and glacial climates. Science 278, 1257–1266 (1997).
Schulz, M., Paul, A. & Timmermann, A. Relaxation oscillators in concert: a framework for climate change at millennial timescales during the late Pleistocene. Geophys. Res. Lett. 29, 2193 (2002).
Svensson, A. et al. A 60,000 year Greenland stratigraphic ice core chronology. Clim. Past 4, 47–57 (2008).
Bereiter, B. et al. Mode of change of millennial CO2 variability during the last glacial cycle associated with a bipolar marine carbon seesaw. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 109, 9755–9760 (2012).
Locarnini, R. et al. World Ocean Atlas 2013 Vol. 1, 40 pp (NOAA Atlas NESDIS 73, 2013).
Bullister, J. L., Rhein, M. & Mauritzen, C. in Ocean Circulation and Climate Vol. 103 Ch. 10 (eds Siedler, G., Griffies, S. M., Gould, J. & Church, J. A.) 227–253 (Academic, 2013).
Cunningham, S. A. et al. Temporal variability of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation at 26.5°N. Science 317, 935–938 (2007).
Ferrari, R. & Ferreira, D. What processes drive the ocean heat transport? Ocean Model. 38, 171–186 (2011).
L.C.M. acknowledges funding from the Australian Research Council (grant nos. FT180100606 and DP180100048). P.C.T acknowledges funding from the UK Natural Environment Research Council (grant no. NE/R000204/1).
The authors declare no competing interests.
Peer review information
Nature Reviews Earth & Environment thanks J. Lynch-Stieglitz, J. Rheinlænder, X. Zhang and the other anonymous reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Menviel, L.C., Skinner, L.C., Tarasov, L. et al. An ice–climate oscillatory framework for Dansgaard–Oeschger cycles. Nat Rev Earth Environ (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43017-020-00106-y