The AMOC and past abrupt climate change: new views on an old paradigm

Theme: Past Life & Environments

Main Supervisor:

David Thornalley

Geography, UCL

Project Description:

The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) is a key component of the climate system. The established paradigm associates shifts in the mode of operation of the AMOC with past abrupt climate change events during the last glacial period. Yet recent studies suggest that past changes in the AMOC are more complex than initially thought. High resolution work has revealed that climate during stadial periods was not unchanging, but instead involved numerous abrupt warming and cooling events, and shifts in the hydrological cycle. The application of relatively novel proxies such as benthic foraminifera radiocarbon ratios have revealed hitherto unexpected, and extreme, states of past ocean circulation, such as an isolated deep Nordic Seas during the glacial. In essences, new insight into the AMOC is being gained by undertaking high resolution, multi-proxy work.

This project will use a range of paleoceanographic proxies (benthic foram Mg/Ca-d18O, d13C, D14C, grain size analysis, faunal assemblages) to investigate the full complexity of past AMOC changes and their role in abrupt glacial and deglacial climate change. There are numerous options available and it is expected that the project will be tailored around the candidate’s own interests and research.

Policy Impact of Research:

This work will provide a deeper understanding of the role of the ocean in the Earth’s climate system. It will also provide robust constraints on past AMOC changes that can be used to test the validity and range of mechanisms displayed by climate models, which are also used for future climate predictions.

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