by Oregon State University, Oct 1, 2020 in Science Daily
Repeated catastrophic ice discharges from western North America into the North Pacific contributed to, and perhaps triggered, hemispheric-scale changes in the Earth’s climate during the last ice age, new research published online today in Science reveals.
The discovery provides new insight into the impact rapidly melting ice flowing into the North Pacific may have on the climate across the planet, said Maureen Walczak, a paleoclimatologist in Oregon State University’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences and the study’s lead author.
“Understanding how the ocean has interacted with glacial ice in the past helps us predict what could happen next,” Walczak said.
The Cordilleran ice sheet once covered large portions of western North America from Alaska to Washington state and western Montana. Radiocarbon dating and analyses of the marine sediment record revealed that recurrent episodes of discharge from this ice sheet over the past 42,000 years were early events in a chain reaction of disturbances to the global climate. These disturbances triggered changes in deep ocean circulation and retreat of ice sheets in the North Atlantic.