Saturday, July 18, 2009

Climate Flip-Flops

What Drives Climate Flip-Flops?
Around 14,600 years ago, the atmospheric circulation over the North Atlantic region flipped within just a few years to another state (2); also, Greenland temperatures skyrocketed by >10°C over several decades (3), terminating a cold phase known as Heinrich Event 1. The global impacts of this Bølling-Allerød transition have been well documented with climate proxy records such as sediment cores and ice cores, but the physical conditions that triggered the transition remain controversial. The temperature evolution from the Heinrich Event 1 to the Bølling-Allerød and the subsequent Younger Dryas cold phase (see the figure) is strikingly similar to the Dansgaard-Oeschger cycles (4) that dominated Northern Hemispheric climate between 60,000 and 30,000 years ago (5). Hence, unraveling the processes that triggered the Bølling-Allerød transition may also help to elucidate the mysterious, tantalizingly regular Dansgaard-Oeschger cycles (6).

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