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Volume 14, issue 3 | Copyright
Clim. Past, 14, 397-411, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 23 Mar 2018

Research article | 23 Mar 2018

Land–sea coupling of early Pleistocene glacial cycles in the southern North Sea exhibit dominant Northern Hemisphere forcing

Timme H. Donders1,2, Niels A. G. M. van Helmond3, Roel Verreussel2, Dirk Munsterman4, Johan ten Veen4, Robert P. Speijer5, Johan W. H. Weijers3,a, Francesca Sangiorgi3, Francien Peterse3, Gert-Jan Reichart3,6, Jaap S. Sinninghe Damsté3,6, Lucas Lourens3, Gesa Kuhlmann7, and Henk Brinkhuis3,6 Timme H. Donders et al.
  • 1Department of Physical Geography, Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University, Heidelberglaan 2, 3584 CD, Utrecht, the Netherlands
  • 2TNO – Applied Geosciences, Netherlands Organisation of Applied Scientific Research Princetonlaan 6, 3584 CB, Utrecht, the Netherlands
  • 3Department of Earth Sciences, Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University, Heidelberglaan 2, 3584 CS, Utrecht, the Netherlands
  • 4TNO – Geological Survey of the Netherlands, Netherlands Organisation of Applied Scientific Research, Princetonlaan 6, 3584 CB, Utrecht, the Netherlands
  • 5Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, KU Leuven, 3001 Heverlee, Belgium
  • 6NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, 1790 AB, Den Burg, Texel, the Netherlands
  • 7BGR – Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources, Geozentrum Hannover, Stilleweg 2, 30655 Hanover, Germany
  • anow at: Shell Global Solutions International B.V., Grasweg 31, 1031 HW, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Abstract. We assess the disputed phase relations between forcing and climatic response in the early Pleistocene with a spliced Gelasian (∼ 2.6–1.8Ma) multi-proxy record from the southern North Sea basin. The cored sections couple climate evolution on both land and sea during the intensification of Northern Hemisphere glaciation (NHG) in NW Europe, providing the first well-constrained stratigraphic sequence of the classic terrestrial Praetiglian stage. Terrestrial signals were derived from the Eridanos paleoriver, a major fluvial system that contributed a large amount of freshwater to the northeast Atlantic. Due to its latitudinal position, the Eridanos catchment was likely affected by early Pleistocene NHG, leading to intermittent shutdown and reactivation of river flow and sediment transport. Here we apply organic geochemistry, palynology, carbonate isotope geochemistry, and seismostratigraphy to document both vegetation changes in the Eridanos catchment and regional surface water conditions and relate them to early Pleistocene glacial–interglacial cycles and relative sea level changes. Paleomagnetic and palynological data provide a solid integrated timeframe that ties the obliquity cycles, expressed in the borehole geophysical logs, to Marine Isotope Stages (MIS) 103 to 92, independently confirmed by a local benthic oxygen isotope record. Marine and terrestrial palynological and organic geochemical records provide high-resolution reconstructions of relative terrestrial and sea surface temperature (TT and SST), vegetation, relative sea level, and coastal influence.

During the prominent cold stages MIS 98 and 96, as well as 94, the record indicates increased non-arboreal vegetation, low SST and TT, and low relative sea level. During the warm stages MIS 99, 97, and 95 we infer increased stratification of the water column together with a higher percentage of arboreal vegetation, high SST, and relative sea level maxima. The early Pleistocene distinct warm–cold alterations are synchronous between land and sea, but lead the relative sea level change by 3000–8000 years. The record provides evidence for a dominantly Northern Hemisphere-driven cooling that leads the glacial buildup and varies on the obliquity timescale. Southward migration of Arctic surface water masses during glacials, indicated by cool-water dinoflagellate cyst assemblages, is furthermore relevant for the discussion on the relation between the intensity of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation and ice sheet growth.

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Short summary
The buildup and melting of ice during the early glaciations in the Northern Hemisphere, around 2.5 million years ago, were far shorter in duration than during the last million years. Based on molecular compounds and microfossils from sediments dating back to the early glaciations we show that the temperature on land and in the sea changed simultaneously and was a major factor in the ice buildup in the Northern Hemisphere. These data provide key insights into the dynamics of early glaciations.
The buildup and melting of ice during the early glaciations in the Northern Hemisphere, around...