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Two hypotheses have been put forward to explain the large and abrupt climate changes that punctuated glacial time. One attributes such changes to reorganizations of the ocean's thermohaline circulation and the other to changes in tropical atmosphere-ocean dynamics. In an attempt to distinguish between these hypotheses, two lines of evidence are examined. The first involves the timing of the freshwater injections to the northern Atlantic that have been suggested as triggers for the global impacts associated with the Younger Dryas and Heinrich events. The second has to do with evidence for precursory events associated with the Heinrich ice-rafted debris layers in the northern Atlantic and with the abrupt Dansgaard-Oeschger warmings recorded in the Santa Barbara Basin.