Contact: Sina Loeschke
Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research
Caption: During the extended cold phases the ice sheets continued to thicken. When higher ice sheets prevailed over North America, typical in periods of intermediate sea levels, the prevailing northwest winds split into two branches. The major wind field ran to the north of the so-called Laurentide Ice Sheet and ensured that the sea ice boundary off the European coast shifted to the north. Ice-free seas permit heat exchange to take place between the atmosphere and the ocean. At the same time, the southern branch of the northwesterly winds drove warmer water into the ice-free areas of the northeast Atlantic and thus amplified the transportation of heat to the north. The modified conditions stimulated enhanced circulation in the ocean. Consequently, a thicker Laurentide Ice Sheet over North America resulted in increased ocean circulation and therefore greater transportation of heat to the north. The climate in the Northern Hemisphere became dramatically warmer within a few decades until, due to the retreat of the glaciers over North America and the renewed change in wind conditions, it began to cool off again.
Credit: Map: Alfred-Wegener-Institut
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