Were glacial iceberg surges in the North Atlantic triggered by climatic warming?

M. Moros, A. Kuijpers, I. Snowball, S. Lassen, D. Bäckstrom, F. Gingele, J. McManus

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47 Citations (Scopus)


High-resolution physical, mineralogical, sedimentological and micropalaeontological studies were carried out on North Atlantic cores from the Reykjanes Ridge at 59°N and from the region southwest of the Faeroe Islands. All core sites are situated along the pathway of Iceland-Scotland Overflow Water (ISOW) and the various parameters measured display similar features. Previously identified carbonate oscillations [Keigwin and Jones (1994) J. Geophys. Res., 99, 12397-12410] in the time span back to the Marine Isotope Stage 5-4 transition and Late Glacial lithic events [Bond and Lotti (1995) Science, 267, 1005-1010], such as the Heinrich ice-rafting events, are all represented in the core records. Long-term trends and higher-frequency changes in ISOW intensity were reconstructed on the basis of various independent proxy records. The long-term trends in circulation match theoretical orbitally forced insolation changes. Our observed links between ice-rafted detritus (IRD) input, variations in sea surface temperature (SST) and circulation at greater depth point to the need to re-examine the origin of IRD events. We suggest that these events may have been triggered by enhanced, partly sub-surface, heat transport to the north. Enhanced northward heat transport may have caused bottom melting of floating outlet glaciers and ice shelves, leading to increased iceberg discharge and ice sheet destabilization. This discharge resulted in lower SST's and a lower temperature over Greenland. Thus, as shown by our records, this scenario implies a temporary de-coupling of surface processes and circulation at greater depth. A key feature is the occurrence of a saw-tooth pattern in the marine data, which is similar to the Greenland ice core records. Moreover, the 'warming' theory of IRD events would explain the observed 'out-of-phase' relationship between the Greenland and Antarctic ice core records and also the rapid establishment of higher temperatures over Greenland immediately after the cold phases (stadials) of the Dansgaard-Oeschger cycles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)393-417
Number of pages25
JournalMarine Geology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 30 Dec 2002


  • Heinrich events
  • Ice-rafting detritus
  • Magnetic susceptibility
  • North Atlantic
  • Palaeocurrents

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 5: Nature and Climate


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