Obliquity-driven expansion of North Atlantic sea ice during the last glacial

Chris Turney, Zoe Thomas, David Hutchinson, Corey Bradshaw, Barry Brook, Matthew England, Christopher Fogwill, Richard Jones, Jonathan Palmer, Konrad Hughen, Alan Cooper

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    9 Citations (Scopus)


    North Atlantic late Pleistocene climate (60,000 to 11,650 years ago) was characterized by abrupt and extreme millennial duration oscillations known as Dansgaard-Oeschger (D-O) events. However, during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) 23,000 to 19,000 cal years ago (23 to 19 ka), no D-O events are observed in the Greenland ice cores. Our new analysis of the Greenland δ 18 O record reveals a switch in the stability of the climate system around 30 ka, suggesting that a critical threshold was passed. Climate system modeling suggests that low axial obliquity at this time caused vastly expanded sea ice in the Labrador Sea, shifting Northern Hemisphere westerly winds south and reducing the strength of meridional overturning circulation. The results suggest that these feedbacks tipped the climate system into full glacial conditions, leading to maximum continental ice growth during the LGM.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)10382-10390
    Number of pages9
    JournalGeophysical Research Letters
    Issue number23
    Publication statusPublished - 16 Dec 2015


    • abrupt climate change
    • geochronology
    • Greenland ice cores
    • late Pleistocene
    • meridional overturning circulation
    • tipping point


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