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The University of Southampton
Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute

Heinrich Event: Land, Ice and Ocean

Published: 18 June 2012

New insight into global ocean-climate sensitivities

On the 18th-19th June 2012, the workshop entitled “Heinrich Events: Land, Ice and Ocean” was hosted at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton. The event was organised by Dr. Jennifer D. Stanford (Geography and Environment) and Mr Ian Bailey (Ocean and Earth Sciences); ECRs working at Southampton University. The event was co-sponsored by the SMMI, QRA, MSG, as well as by the faculties of Natural and Environmental Sciences and Social and Human Sciences. The workshop aimed to address some key and fundamental questions regarding forcings and feedbacks within the global ocean-climate system, which may have caused and sustained the widespread climate deteriorations known as Heinrich events (large-scale ice-sheet collapses during the Late Quaternary, commonly associated with sharp cooling events). The workshop brought together lead scientists from all over the world and from multiple fields of expertise, from glaciologists, to palaeoceanographers, to modern physical oceanographers, to ice-sheet-ocean modellers, to ice-core experts, and to palynologists. Delegates also included scientists from across the University of Southampton. An evening lecture was presented by Clive Gamble (Archaeology), which investigated the relationship between key steps in the evolution of Modern Man with these abrupt climate transitions.

The workshop provided new insight into the predicted rates of ice-sheet decay and potential freshwater forcings on the ocean-climate system, the relationship between low and high-latitude atmospheric responses to these forcings/climate change, the response of the ocean circulation and impacts of outflows from marginal seas on the wider ocean circulation to the associated sea-level change, and the wide-spread changes in oceanographic processes that were occurring, not only across the North Atlantic, but also the Pacific Ocean. Overall, the workshop has given new insight into global ocean- climate sensitivities and has provided caution for when we define such events, since the transient may have been as important as the feedbacks and forcings that initiated the event. A summary paper from the meeting has been invited by one of the key journals in the field of palaeoclimatology.

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