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Rapid switches in subpolar North Atlantic hydrography and climate during the Last Interglacial (MIS 5e)

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  • Nil Irvalı
  • Ulysses S. Ninnemann
  • Eirik V. Galaasen
  • Yair Rosenthal
  • Dick Kroon
  • Delia W. Oppo
  • Helga F. Kleiven
  • Kathryn Darling
  • Catherine Kissel

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    Rights statement: Accepted for publication in Paleoceanography. Copyright (2012) American Geophysical Union.

    Final published version, 1.01 MB, PDF document

Original languageEnglish
Article numberPA2207
Number of pages16
Issue number2
Early online date12 May 2012
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2012


At the peak of the previous interglacial period, North Atlantic and subpolar climate shared many features in common with projections of our future climate, including warmer-than-present conditions and a diminished Greenland Ice Sheet (GIS). Here we portray changes in North Atlantic hydrography linked with Greenland climate during Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 5e using (sub)centennially sampled records of planktonic foraminiferal isotopes and assemblage counts and ice-rafted debris counts, as well as modern analog technique and Mg/Ca-based paleothermometry. We use the core MD03-2664 recovered from a high accumulation rate site (∼34 cm/kyr) on the Eirik sediment drift (57°26.34′N, 48°36.35′W). The results indicate that surface waters off southern Greenland were ∼3–5°C warmer than today during early MIS 5e. These anomalously warm sea surface temperatures (SSTs) prevailed until the isotopic peak of MIS 5e when they were interrupted by a cooling event beginning at ∼126 kyr BP. This interglacial cooling event is followed by a gradual warming with SSTs subsequently plateauing just below early MIS 5e values. A planktonic δ18O minimum during the cooling event indicates that marked freshening of the surface waters accompanied the cooling. We suggest that switches in the subpolar gyre hydrography occurred during a warmer climate, involving regional changes in freshwater fluxes/balance and East Greenland Current influence in the study area. The nature of these hydrographic transitions suggests that they are most likely related to large-scale circulation dynamics, potentially amplified by GIS meltwater influences.

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