The Mid-Brunhes Event and West Antarctic ice sheet stability

Holden, P. B.; Edwards, N. R.; Wolff, E. W.; Valdes, P. J. and Singarayer, J. S. (2011). The Mid-Brunhes Event and West Antarctic ice sheet stability. Journal of Quaternary Science, 26(5) pp. 474–477.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/jqs.1525

Abstract

The complex cyclical nature of Pleistocene climate, driven by the evolving orbital configuration of the Earth, is well known but not well understood. A major climatic transition took place at the Mid-Brunhes Event (MBE), ~430 ka BP after which the amplitude of the ~100 ka climate oscillations increased, with substantially warmer interglacials, including periods warmer than the present. Recent modelling has indicated that whilst the timing of these Warmer-than-Present-Transient (WPT) events is consistent with southern warming due to a deglaciation-forced slowdown of Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, the magnitude of warming requires a local amplification, for which a candidate is the feedback of significant West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) retreat. We here extend this argument, based on the absence of WPTs in the early ice-core record (450 to 800 ka BP), to hypothesise that the MBE could be a manifestation of decreased WAIS stability, triggered by ongoing subglacial erosion.

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