Northern ice discharges and Antarctic warming: could ocean eddies provide the link?

Keeling, RF, Visbeck M.  2005.  Northern ice discharges and Antarctic warming: could ocean eddies provide the link? Quaternary Science Reviews. 24:1809-1820.

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climate-change, coupled climate, greenland ice, heinrich events, isotope records, large-scale circulation, last glacial cycle, phase-relationships, southern-ocean, thermohaline circulation


A mechanism is advanced for explaining the Antarctic warm events from 90 to 30ka BP which involves meltwater-induced changes in the salinity gradient across the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) and consequent changes in the poleward heat transport by ocean eddies. Based on simple linear scale analysis, the mechanism is shown to yield warming in the Antarctic interior of roughly the magnitude seen in Antarctic ice-core records (similar to 2 degrees C) in response to ice discharges into the North Atlantic. Consistent with observations, the mechanism produces gradual Antarctic warming and cooling, as dictated by the time required for salinity anomalies to build up and dissipate across the ACC. The mechanism also allows the onset of warming or cooling to be tied to changes in Atlantic overturning, which is relevant here, not for influencing ocean heat transport directly, but for influencing the routing of meltwater from the North Atlantic into the Southern Ocean. The ideas presented here highlight the possibility that eddy processes in the ocean may play a first-order role in aspects of climate variability on millennial time scales. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.