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Mid to late Holocene strengthening of the East Greenland Current linked to warm subsurface Atlantic water.

Perner, K. and Moros, M. and Lloyd, J.M. and Jansen, E. and Stein, R. (2015) 'Mid to late Holocene strengthening of the East Greenland Current linked to warm subsurface Atlantic water.', Quaternary science reviews., 129 . pp. 296-207.


The relatively fresh and cold East Greenland Current (EGC) connects the Arctic with the subpolar North Atlantic Ocean. Its strength and influence on the freshwater balance in the North Atlantic affects both the Subpolar Gyre dynamics and deep convection in the Labrador Sea. Enhanced freshwater and sea-ice expansion in the subpolar North Atlantic is suggested to modify the northward heat transport within the North Atlantic Current. High-resolution palaeoceanographic reconstructions, based on planktic and benthic foraminifera assemblage data, from the central East Greenland shelf (Foster Bugt) reveal distinct centennial to millennial-scale oceanographic variability that relates to climatic changes during the mid to late Holocene (the last c. 6.3 ka BP). Our data highlight intervals of cooling and freshening of the polar surface EGC waters that accompany warming in the subsurface Atlantic waters, which are a combination of chilled Atlantic Intermediate Water (AIW) from the Arctic Ocean and of the Return Atlantic Current (RAC) from the West Spitsbergen Current (WSC). Mid Holocene thermal optimum conditions prevailed until c. 4.5 ka BP. A thin/absent surface Polar Water layer, low drift/sea-ice occurrence and strong contribution of recirculating warm Atlantic waters at the subsurface, suggest a relatively weak EGC during this period. Subsequently, between 1.4 and 4.5 ka BP, the water column became well stratified as the surface Polar Water layer thickened and cooled, indicating a strong EGC. This EGC strengthening parallelled enhanced subsurface chilled AIW contribution from the Arctic Ocean after c. 4.5 ka BP, which culminated from 1.4 to 2.3 ka BP. This coincides with warming identified in earlier work of the North Atlantic Current, the Irminger Current, and the West Greenland Current. We link the enhanced contribution of chilled Atlantic Water during this period to the time of the ‘Roman Warm Period’. The observed warming offshore East Greenland, centred at c. 1.8 ka BP, likely occurred in response to changes in the interactions of i) a weakened Subpolar Gyre; ii) increased northward heat advection in the North Atlantic Current, and iii) a predominant positive North Atlantic and Arctic Oscillation mode, prevailing during the time of the Roman Warm Period.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:Foraminifera, East Greenland Current, Return Atlantic Current, Subpolar gyre, Polar front, Subpolar north Atlantic, Mid to late Holocene.
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.
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Publisher statement:© 2015 This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license
Date accepted:01 October 2015
Date deposited:09 November 2015
Date of first online publication:03 November 2015
Date first made open access:03 November 2016

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