Rain driven by receding ice sheets as a cause of past abrupt climate change

Abstract: The Younger Dryas cold period, which interrupted the transition from ice age to modern conditions in Greenland, is one of the most dramatic incidents of abrupt climate change reconstructed from paleoclimate proxy records. Changes in the Atlantic Ocean overturning circulation in response to freshwater fluxes from melting ice are frequently invoked to explain this and other past climate changes. In this talk, an alternative mechanism will be proposed in which the receding glacial ice sheets cause the atmospheric circulation to enter a regime with greater net precipitation in the North Atlantic region. This leads to a significant reduction in ocean overturning circulation, causing an increase in sea ice extent and hence colder temperatures. We support the proposed mechanism with the results of a state-of-the-art global climate model. Our results suggest that the atmospheric precipitation response to receding glacial ice sheets could have contributed to the Younger Dryas cooling, as well as other past climate changes involving ocean overturning circulation.




13:30 h


Bundesstr. 53, room 022/023
Seminar Room 022/023, Ground Floor, Bundesstrasse 53, 20146 Hamburg, Hamburg


Ian Eisenman, California Institute of Technology


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