Acceleration of northern ice sheet melt induces AMOC slowdown and northern cooling in simulations of the early last deglaciation

Ruza Ivanovic, Lauren Gregoire, Andrea Burke, A. D. Wickert, P. J. Valdes, H. C. Ng, L. F. Robinson, J. F. McManus, J. X. Mitrovica, L. Lee, J. E. Dentith

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The cause of a rapid change in Atlantic Ocean circulation and northern cooling at the onset of Heinrich Stadial 1 ~18.5 ka is unclear. Previous studies have simulated the event using ice sheet and/or iceberg meltwater forcing, but these idealized freshwater fluxes have been unrealistically large. Here, we use a different approach, driving a high‐resolution drainage network model with a recent time‐resolved global paleo ice sheet reconstruction to generate a realistic meltwater forcing. We input this flux to the HadCM3 climate model without adjusting the timing or amplitude and find that an acceleration in northern ice sheet melting (up to ~7.5 m kyr‐1 global mean sea level rise equivalent) triggers a 20% reduction in the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation. The simulated pattern of ocean circulation and climate change matches an array of palaeoclimate and ocean circulation reconstructions for the onset of Heinrich Stadial 1, both in terms of rates and magnitude of change. This is achieved with a meltwater flux that matches constraints on sea level changes and ice sheet evolution around 19‐18 ka. Since the rates of melting are similar to those projected for Greenland by 2200, constraining the melt rates and magnitude of climate change during Heinrich Stadial 1 would provide an important test of climate model sensitivity to future ice sheet melt.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalPaleoceanography and Paleoclimatology
VolumeEarly View
Early online date27 Jul 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Jul 2018


  • Heinrich Stadial 1
  • Meltwater
  • AMOC
  • Freshwater forcing
  • Deglaciation
  • Stadial


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