HKU Earth Scientists Discovered Century-scale Deep-water Circulation Dynamics in the North Atlantic Ocean throughout the last 20,000 years

By Eric Lee
May 16th 2019

Dr Moriaki Yasuhara, Dr Hisayo Okahashi, and Dr Huai-Hsuan May Huang from School of Biological Sciences and Swire Institute of Marine Science of The University of Hong Kong (HKU), in collaboration with scientists in Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, Duke University, and US Geological Survey have recently reported their discovery on a key driver of past and perhaps future abrupt climate change that is deep-water dynamics in the North Atlantic Ocean in the journal Geology.

North Atlantic intermediate-water temperature variations based on ostracod Mg/Ca ratios from Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) Hole 1055B document a series of multi-centennial-scale abrupt warming events throughout the last deglaciation and Holocene (up to ~3 °C). These events are coherent with abrupt climate reversals including Heinrich event 1, the Younger Dryas–Intra-Allerød cold period, and Holocene North Atlantic Deep Water (NADW) reduction periods. Deglacial–Holocene warm events were likely related to reduction in the strength of the upper NADW (Labrador Sea Water). They also found a long-term cooling trend in the ODP 1055 Mg/Ca record indicating continuous Labrador Sea Water strengthening throughout the Holocene. The results help to better understand deglacial–Holocene upper NADW dynamics that remain poorly understood but can be important for regional and global climates.