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Nat Commun. 2013;4:1664. doi: 10.1038/ncomms2686.

Ocean lead at the termination of the Younger Dryas cold spell.

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  • 1Centre for Past Climate Studies, Department of Geoscience, Aarhus University, Høegh-Guldbergs Gade 2, 8000 Aarhus, Denmark. christof.pearce@geo.au.dk


The Younger Dryas (YD) cold interval is one of the most abrupt climate events of Earth's recent history. The origin of this rapid, severe cooling episode is still widely debated, but it was probably triggered by a large freshwater influx to the North Atlantic resulting in disruption of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation. The YD termination, despite having been even more abrupt than the onset has, however, received significantly less attention. Here using multi-proxy data from a high-resolution marine sediment record, we present evidence for a gradual decrease of the Labrador Current influence, northward migration of the Gulf Stream oceanic front and a rapid decline of sea-ice cover at the YD termination. Our data indicate a stepwise sequence of events with changes in ocean circulation clearly preceding those in atmospheric conditions, in contrast to the hitherto commonly assumed single-event rapid climatic shift at the YD-Holocene transition.

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