Tracking down abrupt climate changes

Aug 01, 2008

In an article in the scientific magazine Nature Geosciences, the geoscientists Achim Brauer, Peter Dulski and Jörg Negendank, (emeritus Professor) from the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Gerald Haug from the DFG-Leibniz Center for Surface Processes and Climate Studies at the University of Potsdam and the ETH in Zurich, and Daniel Sigman from the Princeton University prove, for the first time, an extremely fast climate change in Western Europe. This took place long before man-made changes in the atmosphere, and is causatively associated with a sudden change in the wind systems.

The proof of an extreme cooling within a short number of years 12 700 years ago was attained in sediments of the volcanic lake "Meerfelder Maar" in the Eifel, Germany. The seasonally layered deposits allow to precisely determine the rate of climate change.

With a novel combination of microscopic research studies and modern geochemical scanner procedures the scientists were able to successfully reconstruct the climatic conditions even for individual seasons. And so it was particularly the changes in the wind force and direction during the winter half-year, which caused the climate to topple over into a completely different mode within one year after a short instable phase of a few decades.

Up to now one assumed that it was the attenuation of the Golf Stream alone that was responsible for the strong cooling in Western Europe.

The examined lake deposits show however that the atmospheric circulation, probably in connection with the spreading of sea-ice, probably played a very important role. At the same time, these new results also show that the climate system is long not understood, and that especially the mechanisms of short-term change and the time of occurrence still hold many puzzles. Micro-layered lake deposits represent particularly suitable geological archives, with which scientists want to track down climate change.

Scientists from the Helmholtz Centre Potsdam – German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ) and other institutions are in search of such archives worldwide, so as to also, in the future, obtain area-wide information on the dynamics of climate and possible regional variations.

Citation: "An abrupt wind shift in Western Europe at the onset of the Younger Dryas cold period", Achim BRAUER, Gerald H. HAUG, Peter DULSKI, Daniel M. SIGMAN, Jörg F.W. NEGENDANK, Nature Geoscience 8, 520 – 523

Source: Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres

Explore further: 2014 Antarctic ozone hole holds steady

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Research team studies 'regime shifts' in ecosystems

Oct 23, 2014

The prehistory of major ecological shifts spanning multiple millennia can be read in the fine print of microscopic algae, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Recommended for you

2014 Antarctic ozone hole holds steady

11 hours ago

The Antarctic ozone hole reached its annual peak size on Sept. 11, according to scientists from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The size of this year's hole was 24.1 million ...

New study finds oceans arrived early to Earth

14 hours ago

Earth is known as the Blue Planet because of its oceans, which cover more than 70 percent of the planet's surface and are home to the world's greatest diversity of life. While water is essential for life ...

Magma pancakes beneath Lake Toba

14 hours ago

Where do the tremendous amounts of material that are ejected to from huge volcanic calderas during super-eruptions actually originate?

Fighting the global water scarcity issue

19 hours ago

According to the World Water Management Institute, over one-third of the human population is affected by water scarcity. If nothing is done to prevent it, an estimated 1.8 billion people will be living in ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

mikiwud
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 01, 2008
The changes were probably not global,but over much of the northern hemisphere as to change average global temperatures.It does show that CO2 is not the only cause (or not) of changes as a lot of scientists say if allowed to be heard by the public.
Can we protect these brave scientists from the Gorestapo?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.