A short-term climate oscillation during the Holsteinian interglacial (MIS 11c): An analogy to the 8.2ka climatic event?

Andreas Koutsodendris, Jörg Pross, Ulrich C. Müller, Achim Brauer, William J. Fletcher, Norbert Kühl, Emiliya Kirilova, Florence T M Verhagen, Andreas Lücke, André F. Lotter

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To gain insights into the mechanisms of abrupt climate change within interglacials, we have examined the characteristics and spatial extent of a prominent, climatically induced vegetation setback during the Holsteinian interglacial (Marine Isotope Stage 11c). Based on analyses of pollen and varves of lake sediments from Dethlingen (northern Germany), this climatic oscillation, here termed the "Older Holsteinian Oscillation" (OHO), lasted 220years. It can be subdivided into a 90-year-long decline of temperate tree taxa associated with an expansion of Pinus and herbs, and a 130-year-long recovery phase marked by the expansion of Betula and Alnus, and the subsequent recovery of temperate trees. The climate-induced nature of the OHO is corroborated by changes in diatom assemblages and δ 18O measured on biogenic silica indicating an impact on the aquatic ecosystem of the Dethlingen paleolake. The OHO is widely documented in pollen records from Europe north of 50° latitude and is characterized by boreal climate conditions with cold winters from the British Isles to Poland, with a gradient of decreasing temperature and moisture availability, and increased continentality towards eastern Europe. This pattern points to a weakened influence of the westerlies and/or a stronger influence of the Siberian High. A comparison of the OHO with the 8.2ka event of the Holocene reveals close similarities regarding the imprint on terrestrial ecosystems and the interglacial boundary conditions. Hence, in analogy to the 8.2ka event, a transient, meltwater-induced slowdown of the North Atlantic Deep Water formation appears as a plausible trigger mechanism for the OHO. If correct, meltwater release into the North Atlantic may be a more common agent of abrupt climate change during interglacials than previously thought. We conclude that meltwater-induced climate setbacks during interglacials preferentially occurred when low rates of summer insolation increase during the preceding terminations facilitated the persistence of large-scale continental ice-sheets well into the interglacials. © 2012 Elsevier B.V.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)224-235
Number of pages11
JournalGlobal and Planetary Change
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2012


  • δ 18O silica
  • 8.2ka event
  • Abrupt climate change
  • Holsteinian interglacial
  • MIS 11
  • Varve chronology


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