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.



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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