Theses Doctoral

Enhanced Surface Melting of the Fennoscandian Ice Sheet during Stadials

Boswell, Steven M.

Unexpected melting of Northern Hemisphere ice sheets during periods of regional cooling characterizes the climate of the last glacial period. While the Heinrich Events are the most well-studied example of this phenomenon, Samuel Toucanne and colleagues recently documented evidence of Fennoscandian Ice Sheet melting during Heinrich Stadials, the cold periods during which Heinrich Events occur. In this dissertation, I use the geographic provenance of sediments in the Bay of Biscay, a proxy for Fennoscandian Ice Sheet melting, along with other paleoclimate records to: (1) demonstrate the persistence of abrupt Fennoscandian Ice Sheet melting as a feature of the Pleistocene climate system, (2) develop a self-consistent explanation for the synchronous melting of ice sheets in the North Atlantic region, and (3) elucidate the timing of abrupt climate change in the Northern Hemisphere.
I begin by introducing a framework for inferring the subglacial transport distance of fine sediments from coupled provenance and grain size analyses. This chapter untangles the relationships between the source, size, transport history, and geochemical signature of glacigenic sediments in northern Europe, clarifying the geographical significance of sediment provenance in the Bay of Biscay. I then develop a new method for the spectral analysis of unevenly sampled time series. In the following chapter, I apply the new spectral method to time series of Fennoscandian Ice Sheet melting, Laurentide Ice Sheet melting, and solar activity changes during the last glacial period. Doing so reveals a coherence between ice sheet melting and solar activity and helps explain the quasi-periodic melting of ice sheets on millennial timescales. I then extend the neodymium isotope provenance record of Fennoscandian Ice Sheet melting through Marine Isotope Stage 6, demonstrating that enhanced summertime melting of the FIS during Heinrich Stadials is a recurring feature of glacial periods. In the final chapter, I document a relationship between the occurrence of abrupt ice sheet melting in the Northern Hemisphere and the precession of Earth’s spin axis to reveal an astronomical forcing of millennial-scale climate change.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Earth and Environmental Sciences
Thesis Advisors
Martinson, Douglas G.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
September 7, 2018