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Abrupt Climate Change at the End of the Last Glacial Period Inferred from Trapped Air in Polar Ice

Science  29 Oct 1999:
Vol. 286, Issue 5441, pp. 930-934
DOI: 10.1126/science.286.5441.930

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Abstract

The last glacial period was terminated by an abrupt warming event in the North Atlantic ∼15,000 years before the present, and warming events of similar age have been reported from low latitudes. Understanding the mechanism of this termination requires that the precise relative timing of abrupt climate warming in the tropics versus the North Atlantic be known. Nitrogen and argon isotopes in trapped air in Greenland ice show that the Greenland Summit warmed 9 ± 3°C over a period of several decades, beginning 14,672 years ago. Atmospheric methane concentrations rose abruptly over a ∼50-year period and began their increase 20 to 30 years after the onset of the abrupt Greenland warming. These data suggest that tropical climate became warmer or wetter (or both) ∼20 to 80 years after the onset of Greenland warming, supporting a North Atlantic rather than a tropical trigger for the climate event.

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