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Durham University

Department of Earth Sciences

Research Staff

Publication details for Prof Jim McElwaine

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

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

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.