Oceanic Mechanisms for Amplification of the 23,000-Year Ice-Volume Cycle

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Science  08 May 1981:
Vol. 212, Issue 4495, pp. 617-627
DOI: 10.1126/science.212.4495.617


Situated adjacent to the largest Northern Hemispher ice sheets of the ice ages, the mid-latitude North Atlantic Ocean has an important role in the earth's climate history. It provides a significant local source of moisture for the atmosphere and adjacent continents, forms a corridor that guides moisture-bearing storms northward from low latitudes, and at times makes direct contact along its shorelines with continental ice masses. Evidence of major ice-ocean-air interactions involving the North Atlantic during the last 250,000 years is summarized. Outflow of icebergs and meltwater initially driven by summer insolation over the ice sheets affects midlatitude ocean temperatures, summer heat storage, winter sea-ice extent, and global sea level. These oceanic responses in turn influence the winter moisture flux back to the ice sheets, as well as ablation of land ice by calving. Spectral data indicate that the oceanic moisture and sea-level feedbacks, in part controlled by glacial melt products, amplify Milankovitch (insolation) forcing of the volumetrically dominant mid-latitude ice sheets at the 23,000-year precessional cycle.