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Fingerprint of ancient abrupt climate change found in Arctic

A research team found the fingerprint of a massive flood of fresh water in the western Arctic, thought to be the cause of an ancient cold snap that began around 13,000 years ago. This abrupt climate change -- known as the Younger Dryas -- ended more than 1,000 years of warming. The cause of the cooling event, which is named after a flower (Dryas octopetala) that flourished in the cold conditions in Europe throughout the time, has remained a mystery and a source of debate for decades. Many researchers believed the source was a huge influx of fresh water from melting ice sheets and glaciers that gushed into the North Atlantic, disrupting the deep-water circulation system -- Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation -- that transports warmer waters and releases heat to the atmosphere. However, geologic evidence tracing its exact path had been lacking. Next steps in future research will be for scientists to answer remaining questions about the quantity of fresh water delivered to the North Atlantic preceding the Younger Dryas event and over how long of a period of time.

Visit Website | Image credit: Lloyd Keigwin/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution