Imagine a lake three times the size of the present-day Lake Ontario breaking through a dam and flooding down the Hudson River Valley past New York City and into the North Atlantic. The results would be catastrophic if it happened today, but it did happen some 13,400 years ago during the retreat of glaciers over North America and may have triggered a brief cooling known as the Intra-Allerod Cold Period.
Assistant Scientist Jeffrey Donnelly of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution presented the findings at the American Geophysical Unions fall meeting in San Francisco today. Donnelly and colleagues analyzed data from sediment cores, walrus fossils and pollen to precisely date the discharge from Glacial Lake Iroquois down the Hudson River Valley at 13,350 years ago. The flood waters broke through a spot of land where the Verazanno Narrows Bridge now stands to reach the North Atlantic.
The discharge of glacial freshwater into the North Atlantic has long been thought to drive fluctuations in past climate because the huge volume of freshwater would alter thermohaline circulation in the ocean. Directly linking discharge events with individual climatic changes has been difficult because of the challenges in pinpointing the location, timing and amount of the discharge.
Shelley Dawicki | EurekAlert!
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