Understanding the sequence of events that take place during glacial-interglacial climate transitions is important for improving our knowledge of abrupt climate change. Here, we present a new stacked, high-resolution, precisely-dated speleothem stable isotope record from the northern Alps, which provides an important record of temperature and moisture-source changes between 134 and 111 ka for Europe and the wider North Atlantic realm. The record encompasses the penultimate deglaciation (Termination II (TII)), which lies beyond the limit of radiocarbon dating, thus providing an important new archive for a crucial period of rapid paleoclimate change. Warmer and wetter ice-free conditions were achieved by 134.1 ± 0.7 ka (modelled ages) as indicated by the presence of liquid water at the site. Temperatures warmed further at 133.7 ± 0.5 ka and led into an interstadial, synchronous with slightly elevated monsoon strength during the week monsoon interval. The interstadial experienced an unstable climate with a trough in temperature associated with a slowdown in Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) and a reduction in North Atlantic Deep Water (NADW) formation. The interstadial ended with a more extreme cold reversal lasting 500 years in which NADW formation remained active but the subpolar gyre weakened allowing cool polar waters to penetrate southwards. The main warming associated with TII was very rapid, taking place between 130.9 ± 0.9 and 130.7 ± 0.9 ka coeval with initial monsoon strengthening. Temperatures then plateaued before being interrupted by a 600-year cold event at 129.1 ± 0.6 ka, associated once again with penetration of polar waters southwards into the North Atlantic and a slowdown in monsoon strengthening. Sub-orbital climate oscillations were thus a feature of TII in the north Atlantic realm, which broadly resemble the Bølling/Allerød-Younger Dryas-8.2 ka event pattern of change observed in Termination I despite monsoon records indicating strong differences between the last and penultimate deglaciation.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) project no. P222780 to CS, and in part by U.S. National Science Foundation grant 1103403 to RLE and HC. We thank Andreas Wolf and Yuri Dublyansky for assistance during field work, Manuela Wimmer for preparation and measurement of the stable isotopes, and Jerry McManus, Russell Drysdale and an anonymous reviewer for providing useful comments that helped greatly to improve the manuscript. Stable isotope data and age models for this paper are available online at NOAA's Paleoclimatology Data database.
© 2015 The Authors.
- Bølling/Allerød-Younger Dryas
- Last interglacial
- Millennial-scale climate change
- North Atlantic
- Stable isotopes
- Termination II
- U-Th dating