Research ArticleCLIMATOLOGY

Sea level fingerprinting of the Bering Strait flooding history detects the source of the Younger Dryas climate event

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Science Advances  26 Feb 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 9, eaay2935
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aay2935


During the Last Glacial Maximum, expansive continental ice sheets lowered globally averaged sea level ~130 m, exposing a land bridge at the Bering Strait. During the subsequent deglaciation, sea level rose rapidly and ultimately flooded the Bering Strait, linking the Arctic and Pacific Oceans. Observational records of the Bering Strait flooding have suggested two apparently contradictory scenarios for the timing of the reconnection. We reconcile these enigmatic datasets using gravitationally self-consistent sea-level simulations that vary the timing and geometry of ice retreat between the Laurentide and Cordilleran Ice Sheets to the southwest of the Bering Strait to fit observations of a two-phased flooding history. Assuming the datasets are robust, we demonstrate that their reconciliation requires a substantial melting of the Cordilleran and western Laurentide Ice Sheet from 13,000 to 11,500 years ago. This timing provides a freshwater source for the widely debated Younger Dryas cold episode (12,900 to 11,700 years ago).

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