Antarctic sea ice and the control of Pleistocene climate instability

Keeling, RF, Stephens BB.  2001.  Antarctic sea ice and the control of Pleistocene climate instability. Paleoceanography. 16:112-131,330-334.

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atlantic thermohaline circulation, Drake Passage, greenland ice, indian-ocean, intermediate water, last glacial period, north-atlantic, ocean circulation, southern-ocean, surface-temperature


A hypothesis is presented for the origin of Pleistocene climate instability, based on expansion of Antarctic sea ice and associated changes in the oceans' salinity structure. The hypothesis assumes that thermohaline overturning is dominated by the reconfigured conveyor of Toggweiler and Samuels [1993b], in which deepwater upwelling is restricted to high southern latitudes. The reconfigured conveyor is shown to be potentially stabilized in an "on" mode by precipitation at high southern latitudes and potentially destabilized into "on" and "off" modes by the counteracting influence of Antarctic sea ice. The mechanism is clarified by the use of a hydraulic analogue. We hypothesize that this mechanism accounts for dominant patterns of thermohaline overturning and climate instability between Pleistocene warm and cold periods. The hypothesis is shown to be consistent with a range of paleoceanographic evidence and to potentially account for details of observed rapid climate changes during glacial and interglacial periods, including aspects of interhemispheric timing.