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Meltwater routing and the Younger Dryas
Condron, A.; Winsor, P. (2012). Meltwater routing and the Younger Dryas. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. PNAS Early edition: 6 pp. hdl.handle.net/10.1073/pnas.1207381109
In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. The Academy: Washington, D.C.. ISSN 0027-8424, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Keyword
    Marine
Author keywords
    abrupt climate change; climate modeling; paleoclimate

Authors  Top 
  • Condron, A.
  • Winsor, P.

Abstract
    The Younger Dryas-the last major cold episode on Earth-is generally considered to have been triggered by a meltwater flood into the North Atlantic. The prevailing hypothesis, proposed by Broecker et al. [1989 Nature 341:318–321] more than two decades ago, suggests that an abrupt rerouting of Lake Agassiz overflow through the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Valley inhibited deep water formation in the subpolar North Atlantic and weakened the strength of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). More recently, Tarasov and Peltier [2005 Nature 435:662–665] showed that meltwater could have discharged into the Arctic Ocean via the Mackenzie Valley ~4,000 km northwest of the St. Lawrence outlet. Here we use a sophisticated, high-resolution, ocean sea-ice model to study the delivery of meltwater from the two drainage outlets to the deep water formation regions in the North Atlantic. Unlike the hypothesis of Broecker et al., freshwater from the St. Lawrence Valley advects into the subtropical gyre ~3,000 km south of the North Atlantic deep water formation regions and weakens the AMOC by <15%. In contrast, narrow coastal boundary currents efficiently deliver meltwater from the Mackenzie Valley to the deep water formation regions of the subpolar North Atlantic and weaken the AMOC by >30%. We conclude that meltwater discharge from the Arctic, rather than the St. Lawrence Valley, was more likely to have triggered the Younger Dryas cooling.

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