Relative sea-level data from southwest Scotland constrain meltwater-driven sea-level jumps prior to the 8.2 kyr BP event

Thomas Lawrence*, Antony J. Long, W. Roland Gehrels, Luke P. Jackson, David E. Smith

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The most significant climate cooling of the Holocene is centred on 8.2 kyr BP (the ‘8.2 event’). Its cause is widely attributed to an abrupt slowdown of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) associated with the sudden drainage of Laurentide proglacial Lakes Agassiz and Ojibway, but model simulations have difficulty reproducing the event with a single-pulse scenario of freshwater input. Several lines of evidence point to multiple episodes of freshwater release from the decaying Laurentide Ice Sheet (LIS) between ∼8900 and ∼8200 cal yr BP, yet the precise number, timing and magnitude of these events – critical constraints for AMOC simulations – are far from resolved. Here we present a high-resolution relative sea level (RSL) record for the period 8800 to 7800 cal yr BP developed from estuarine and salt-marsh deposits in SW Scotland. We find that RSL rose abruptly in three steps by 0.35 m, 0.7 m and 0.4 m (mean) at 8760–8640, 8595–8465, 8323–8218 cal yr BP respectively. The timing of these RSL steps correlate closely with short-lived events expressed in North Atlantic proxy climate and oceanographic records, providing evidence of at least three distinct episodes of enhanced meltwater discharge from the decaying LIS prior to the 8.2 event. Our observations can be used to test the fidelity of both climate and ice-sheet models in simulating abrupt change during the early Holocene.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)292-308
Number of pages17
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Early online date29 Sept 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2016

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