Interconnected ocean currents move water, salt, and heat around the Earth, influencing today’s global climate. Evidence suggests this system of “rivers in the sea” was different in the past, and that changes in its strength and configuration were associated with the dramatic climate changes of the ice ages. Yet other large climate influences, like the amount of seasonal sunlight and atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations, often varied at the same time, making it hard to isolate the primary cause. Putting together some new and existing evidence from deep-sea sediments suggests that shifting ocean currents did drive dramatic climate change, especially in and around the North Atlantic Ocean. Could it happen again?
This lecture was sponsored by the Lamont-Doherty Alumni Association.