Greenland temperature response to climate forcing during the last deglaciation

Science  05 Sep 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6201, pp. 1177-1180
DOI: 10.1126/science.1254961

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Old and older, cold and colder

Greenland surface air temperatures changed dramatically during the last deglaciation. The exact amount is unknown, which makes it difficult to understand what caused those changes. Buizert et al. report temperature reconstructions for the period from 19,000 to 10,000 years before the present from three different locations in Greenland and interpret them with a climate model (see the Perspective by Sime). They provide the broad geographic pattern of temperature variability and infer the mechanisms of the changes and their seasonality, which differ in important ways from the traditional view.

Science, this issue p. 1177; see also p. 1116


Greenland ice core water isotopic composition (δ18O) provides detailed evidence for abrupt climate changes but is by itself insufficient for quantitative reconstruction of past temperatures and their spatial patterns. We investigate Greenland temperature evolution during the last deglaciation using independent reconstructions from three ice cores and simulations with a coupled ocean-atmosphere climate model. Contrary to the traditional δ18O interpretation, the Younger Dryas period was 4.5° ± 2°C warmer than the Oldest Dryas, due to increased carbon dioxide forcing and summer insolation. The magnitude of abrupt temperature changes is larger in central Greenland (9° to 14°C) than in the northwest (5° to 9°C), fingerprinting a North Atlantic origin. Simulated changes in temperature seasonality closely track changes in the Atlantic overturning strength and support the hypothesis that abrupt climate change is mostly a winter phenomenon.

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