Research Article

Instability of Glacial Climate in a Model of the Ocean- Atmosphere-Cryosphere System

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Science  22 Feb 2002:
Vol. 295, Issue 5559, pp. 1489-1493
DOI: 10.1126/science.1066174

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In contrast to the relatively stable climate of the past 10,000 years, during glacial times the North Atlantic region experienced large-amplitude transitions between cold (stadial) and warm (interstadial) states. In this modeling study, we demonstrate that hydrological interactions between the Atlantic thermohaline circulation (THC) and adjacent continental ice sheets can trigger abrupt warming events and also limit the lifetime of the interstadial circulation mode. These interactions have the potential to destabilize the THC, which is already more sensitive for glacial conditions than for the present-day climate, thus providing an explanation for the increased variability of glacial climate.

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