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Was millennial scale climate change during the Last Glacial triggered by explosive volcanism?

Baldini, J.U.L.; Brown, R.J.; McElwaine, J.N.

Was millennial scale climate change during the Last Glacial triggered by explosive volcanism? Thumbnail



The mechanisms responsible for millennial scale climate change within glacial time intervals are equivocal. Here we show that all eight known radiometrically-dated Tambora-sized or larger NH eruptions over the interval 30 to 80 ka BP are associated with abrupt Greenland cooling (>95% confidence). Additionally, previous research reported a strong statistical correlation between the timing of Southern Hemisphere volcanism and Dansgaard-Oeschger (DO) events (>99% confidence), but did not identify a causative mechanism. Volcanic aerosol-induced asymmetrical hemispheric cooling over the last few hundred years restructured atmospheric circulation in a similar fashion as that associated with Last Glacial millennial-scale shifts (albeit on a smaller scale). We hypothesise that following both recent and Last Glacial NH eruptions, volcanogenic sulphate injections into the stratosphere cooled the NH preferentially, inducing a hemispheric temperature asymmetry that shifted atmospheric circulation cells southward. This resulted in Greenland cooling, Antarctic warming, and a southward shifted ITCZ. However, during the Last Glacial, the initial eruption-induced climate response was prolonged by NH glacier and sea ice expansion, increased NH albedo, AMOC weakening, more NH cooling, and a consequent positive feedback. Conversely, preferential SH cooling following large SH eruptions shifted atmospheric circulation to the north, resulting in the characteristic features of DO events.


Baldini, J., Brown, R., & McElwaine, J. (2015). Was millennial scale climate change during the Last Glacial triggered by explosive volcanism?. Scientific Reports, 5, Article 17442.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 29, 2015
Online Publication Date Nov 30, 2015
Publication Date Nov 30, 2015
Deposit Date Nov 30, 2015
Publicly Available Date Oct 20, 2016
Journal Scientific Reports
Publisher Nature Research
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 5
Article Number 17442
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