Sudden decreases in temperature over Greenland and tropical rainfall patterns during the last Ice Age have been linked for the first time to rapid changes in the salinity of the north Atlantic Ocean, according to research published Oct. 5, 2006, in the journal Nature. The results provide further evidence that ocean circulation and chemistry respond to changes in climate.
Using chemical traces in fossil shells of microscopic planktonic life forms, called formanifera, in deep-sea sediment cores, scientists reconstructed a 45,000- to 60,000-year-old record of ocean temperature and salinity. They compared their results to the record of abrupt climate change recorded in ice cores from Greenland. They found the Atlantic got saltier during cold periods, and fresher during warm intervals.
"The freshening likely reflects shifts in rainfall patterns, mostly in the tropics," Howard Spero of the University of California at Davis said. "Suddenly, we're looking at a record that links moisture balance in the tropics to climate change. And the most striking thing is that a measurable transition is happening over decades."
Spero, who is currently on leave at the National Science Foundation's Marine Geology and Geophysics Program, worked with lead author Matthew Schmidt of the Georgia Institute of Technology and Maryline Vautravers of Cambridge University in the United Kingdom to conduct the research.
During the Ice Age, much of North America and Europe was covered by a sheet of ice. But the ice records the scientists reconstructed show repeated patterns of sudden warming, called Dansgaard-Oeschger Cycles, when temperatures in Greenland rose by 5 to 10 degrees Celsius over a few decades.
Close to the tropics, warm, moist air forms a zone of heavy tropical rainfall, called the Intertropical Convergence Zone, which dilutes the salty ocean with fresh water. Today, the tropical rainfall zone reaches into the northern Caribbean, but during the colder periods of the Ice Age it was pushed much further south, towards Brazil. That kept fresh water out of the northern Atlantic, so it became more salty, Spero said.
The circulation, or gyre, in the North Atlantic moves warm, salty water north, keeping Europe relatively temperate. The deep ocean circulation is very sensitive to the saltiness of north Atlantic surface waters, Spero said. Warming climate, higher rainfall and fresher conditions can alter the circulation. During glacial times, reduced circulation caused climate to cool.
The new results show that as the climate cooled in Greenland, salinity rapidly increased in the North Atlantic subtropical gyre. The build-up of salt during these cold intervals when the conveyor circulation was reduced would have primed the system to quickly restart on transitions into warm intervals, Schmidt said. However, the actual trigger that caused Atlantic circulation to restart during the Ice Age is still unknown, he said.
Once warming began, melting ice sheets would have contributed fresh water to the Atlantic, but this would have been partly buffered by the elevated saltiness of the Atlantic.
Cheryl Dybas | EurekAlert!
Scientists on the road to discovering impact of urban road dust
18.01.2018 | University of Alberta
Gran Chaco: Biodiversity at High Risk
17.01.2018 | Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.
We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...
What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...
For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.
Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...
At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.
No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...
Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.
Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...
08.01.2018 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
19.01.2018 | Materials Sciences
19.01.2018 | Health and Medicine
19.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy