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Climate of the Past An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 7, issue 4 | Copyright
Clim. Past, 7, 1297-1306, 2011
https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-7-1297-2011
© Author(s) 2011. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 29 Nov 2011

Research article | 29 Nov 2011

Heinrich event 1: an example of dynamical ice-sheet reaction to oceanic changes

J. Álvarez-Solas1,2, M. Montoya1,3, C. Ritz4, G. Ramstein2, S. Charbit2, C. Dumas2, K. Nisancioglu5, T. Dokken5, and A. Ganopolski6 J. Álvarez-Solas et al.
  • 1Dpto. Astrofísica y Ciencias de la Atmósfera, Universidad Complutense, Madrid, Spain
  • 2LSCE/IPSL, CEA-CNRS-UVSQ, UMR1572, CEA Saclay, Gif-sur-Yvette, France
  • 3Instituto de Geociencias (UCM-CSIC), Facultad de Ciencias Físicas, Madrid, Spain
  • 4Laboratoire de Glaciologie et de Géophysique de l'Environnement, CNRS, Saint Martin d'Hères, France
  • 5Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, Bergen, Norway
  • 6Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Potsdam, Germany

Abstract. Heinrich events, identified as enhanced ice-rafted detritus (IRD) in North Atlantic deep sea sediments (Heinrich, 1988; Hemming, 2004) have classically been attributed to Laurentide ice-sheet (LIS) instabilities (MacAyeal, 1993; Calov et al., 2002; Hulbe et al., 2004) and assumed to lead to important disruptions of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) and North Atlantic deep water (NADW) formation. However, recent paleoclimate data have revealed that most of these events probably occurred after the AMOC had already slowed down or/and NADW largely collapsed, within about a thousand years (Hall et al., 2006; Hemming, 2004; Jonkers et al., 2010; Roche et al., 2004), implying that the initial AMOC reduction could not have been caused by the Heinrich events themselves.

Here we propose an alternative driving mechanism, specifically for Heinrich event 1 (H1; 18 to 15 ka BP), by which North Atlantic ocean circulation changes are found to have strong impacts on LIS dynamics. By combining simulations with a coupled climate model and a three-dimensional ice sheet model, our study illustrates how reduced NADW and AMOC weakening lead to a subsurface warming in the Nordic and Labrador Seas resulting in rapid melting of the Hudson Strait and Labrador ice shelves. Lack of buttressing by the ice shelves implies a substantial ice-stream acceleration, enhanced ice-discharge and sea level rise, with peak values 500–1500 yr after the initial AMOC reduction. Our scenario modifies the previous paradigm of H1 by solving the paradox of its occurrence during a cold surface period, and highlights the importance of taking into account the effects of oceanic circulation on ice-sheets dynamics in order to elucidate the triggering mechanism of Heinrich events.

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