Ocean-atmosphere climate shift during the mid-to-late Holocene transition

Morely, Audrey; Rosenthal, Yair; deMenocal, Peter B.

Climate records of the mid-to-late Holocene transition, between 3–4 thousand years before present (ka), often exhibit a rapid change in response to the gradual change in orbital insolation. Here we investigate North Atlantic Central Water circulation as a possible mechanism regulating the latitudinal temperature gradient (LTG), which, in turn, amplifies climate sensitivity to small changes in solar irradiance. Through this mechanism, sharp climate events and transitions are the result of a positive feedback process that propagates and amplifies climate events in the North Atlantic region. We explore these linkages using an intermediate water temperature record reconstructed from Mg/Ca measurements of benthic foraminifera (Hyalinea balthica) from a sediment core off NW Africa (889 m depth) between 0 to 5.5 ka. Our results show that Eastern North Atlantic Central Waters (ENACW) cooled by ~1°±0.7 °C~1°±0.7 °C and densities decreased by σθ=0.4±0.2σθ=0.4±0.2 between 3.3 and 2.6 ka. This shift in ENACW hydrography illustrates a transition towards enhanced mid-latitude atmospheric circulation after 2.7 ka in particular during cold events of the late-Holocene. The presented records demonstrate the important role of ENACW circulation in propagating the climate signatures of the LTG by reducing the meridional heat transfer from high to low latitudes during the transition from the Holocene Thermal Maximum to the late-Holocene. In addition, the dynamic response of ENACW circulation to the gradual climate forcing of LTGs provides a prime example of an amplifying climate feedback mechanism.


Also Published In

Earth and Planetary Science Letters

More About This Work

Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Earth and Environmental Sciences
Biology and Paleo Environment
Published Here
March 28, 2014