A salty deep ocean as a prerequisite for glacial termination


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Gregor.Knorr [ at ] awi.de

Abstract

Deglacial transitions of the middle to late Pleistocene (terminations) are linked to gradual changes in insolation accompanied by abrupt shifts in ocean circulation. However, the reason these deglacial abrupt events are so special compared with their sub-glacial-maximum analogues, in particular with respect to the exaggerated warming observed across Antarctica, remains unclear. Here we show that an increase in the relative importance of salt versus temperature stratification in the glacial deep South Atlantic decreases the potential cooling effect of waters that may be upwelled in response to abrupt perturbations in ocean circulation, as compared with sub-glacial-maximum conditions. Using a comprehensive coupled atmosphere–ocean gen-eral circulation model, we then demonstrate that an increase in deep-ocean salinity stratification stabilizes relatively warm waters in the glacial deep ocean, which amplifies the high southern latitude surface ocean temperature response to an abrupt weakening of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation during deglaciation. The mechanism can produce a doubling in the net rate of warming across Antarctica on a multicentennial timescale when starting from full glacial conditions (as compared with interglacial or subglacial conditions) and therefore helps to explain the large magnitude and rapidity of glacial termina-tions during the late Quaternary.



Item Type
Article
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Helmholtz Cross Cutting Activity (2021-2027)
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Peer revision
Peer-reviewed, Web of Science / Scopus
Publication Status
Published
Eprint ID
55092
DOI 10.1038/s41561-021-00857-3

Cite as
Knorr, G. , Barker, S. , Zhang, X. , Lohmann, G. , Gong, X. , Gierz, P. , Stepanek, C. and Stap, L. B. (2021): A salty deep ocean as a prerequisite for glacial termination , Nature Geoscience, 14 , pp. 930-936 . doi: 10.1038/s41561-021-00857-3


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