Published studies show that ice rafted debris (MD) deposition preceding Heinrich (H) events H I and H2 in the NE Atlantic was derived from the NW European ice sheets (NWEIS), possibly offering clues about ice sheet sensitivity and stability, and the mechanisms that caused periodic collapse of the Laurentide Ice Sheet (LIS). We present detailed lithological and geochemical records, including radiogenic isotope fingerprinting, of IRD deposits from core MD01-2461, proximal to the last glacial British Ice Sheet (BIS), demonstrating persistent instability of the BIS, with significant destabilisation occurring 1.5-1.9 kyr prior to both HI and H2, dated at 16.9 and 24.1 kyr BP, respectively, in the NE Atlantic. Paired Mg/Ca and 6180 data from the surface dwelling Globigerina bulloides and subsurface dwelling Neogloboquadrina pachyderma sinistral are used to determine late-glacial variability of temperature, salinity and stratification of the upper water column. A picture emerges that the BIS was in a continuing state of readjustment and never fully reached steady state. Increased sea surface temperatures appear to have triggered the episode of NWEIS instability preceding HI. It seems most probable that the so-called 'precursor' events were not linked to the H events. However, if response to a common thermal forcing is considered, an increased response time of the LIS, up to similar to 2 kyr longer than the NWEIS, may be inferred. Negative salinity excursions of up to 2.6 indicate significant incursions of melt water associated with peaks in NWEIS instability. Decreased surface density led to a more stable stratification of the upper water column and is associated with reduced ventilation of intermediate waters, recorded in depleted epibenthiC delta C-13 (Cibicidoides wuellerstoifi). We suggest that instability and meltwater forcing of the NWEIS temporarily weakened Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, allowing transient advance of southern-sourced waters to this site, prior to H events I and 2. (c) 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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