Abrupt climate changes and the astronomical theory: are they related?

Rousseau, Denis-Didier; Bagniewski, Witold; Ghil, Michael

Abrupt climate changes are defined as sudden climate changes that took place over tens to hundreds of years or recurred at millennial timescales; they are thought to involve processes that are internal to the climate system. By contrast, astronomically forced climate changes involve processes that are external to the climate system and whose multi-millennial quasi-periodic variations are well known from astronomical theory. In this paper, we re-examine the main climate variations determined from the U1308 North Atlantic marine record, which yields a detailed calving history of the Northern Hemisphere ice sheets over the past 3.2 Myr. The magnitude and periodicity of the ice-rafted debris (IRD) events observed in the U1308 record allow one to determine the timing of several abrupt climate changes, the larger ones corresponding to the massive iceberg discharges labeled Heinrich events (HEs). In parallel, abrupt warmings, called Dansgaard Oeschger (DO) events, have been identified in the Greenland records of the last glaciation cycle. Combining the HE and DO observations, we study a complex mechanism giving rise to the observed millennial-scale variability that subsumes the abrupt climate changes of last 0.9 Myr. This process is characterized by the presence of Bond cycles, which group DO events and the associated Greenland stadials into a trend of increased cooling, with IRD events embedded into every stadial, the latest of these being an HE. These Bond cycles may have occurred during the last 0.9 Ma when Northern Hemisphere ice sheets reached their maximum extent and volume, thus becoming a major player in this time interval's climate dynamics. Since the waxing and waning of ice sheets during the Quaternary period are orbitally paced, we conclude that the abrupt climate changes observed during the Middle Pleistocene and Upper Pleistocene are therewith indirectly linked to the astronomical theory of climate.


Also Published In

Climate of the Past

More About This Work

Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Biology and Paleo Environment
Published Here
February 14, 2022