Origin of Global Meltwater Pulses

  • Richard G. Fairbanks
  • Christopher D. Charles
  • James D. Wright

Abstract

The fact that frequencies measured in climate records are the same as those predicted by the astronomical theory of climate change is undisputed (Hays, Imbrie & Shackleton 1976). However, the mechanisms by which these small changes in seasonal insolation are amplified into glacial cycles remain a fundamental mystery of the Earth’s climate system. The Barbados postglacial sea-level record is sufficiently detailed to resolve, for the first time, the rates as well as the magnitude of continental ice melting (Fairbanks 1989, 1990) (Fig 30.1A). The Barbados meltwater discharge curve is not smooth but pulsed, with peaks at 12,000 14C years1 and 9500 14C years (Fig 30.1B). Sea level rose more than 24 m during each of these pulses, with annual rates of sea-level rise exceeding 3 cm/yr. These enormous pulses must mark the ice-sheet response to a change in one or more of the climate amplifiers (eg, greenhouse gases and oceanic heat transports). The suspected amplifiers have different time constants and different regional sensitivities. Therefore, the discovery of both the pulsed deglaciation itself and the geographic origin of the pulses may help pinpoint the factors responsible for the timing of the large sea-level change associated with the last deglaciation, as well as the cause of previous “terminations” which recur every 100,000 14C years during the late Pleistocene Epoch (Broecker 1984).

Keywords

Southern Ocean Benthic Foraminifera Planktonic Foraminifera Thermohaline Circulation North Atlantic Deep Water 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard G. Fairbanks
  • Christopher D. Charles
  • James D. Wright

There are no affiliations available

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