Meltwater pulse 1A

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Image showing sea level change during the end of the last glacial period. Meltwater pulse 1A is indicated.

Meltwater pulse 1A (MWP1a) is the name used by Quaternary geologists, paleoclimatologists, and oceanographers for a period of rapid post-glacial sea level rise during which global sea level rose between 16 meters (52 ft) and 25 meters (82 ft) in about 400–500 years, giving mean rates of roughly 30–60 mm (0.098–0.197 ft)/yr.[1] Meltwater pulse 1A is also known as catastrophic rise event 1 (CRE1) in the Caribbean Sea.[2] The rates of sea level rise associated with meltwater pulse 1A are the highest known rates of post-glacial, eustatic sea level rise. Meltwater pulse 1A is also the most widely recognized and least disputed of the named, postglacial meltwater pulses. Other named, postglacial meltwater pulses are known most commonly as meltwater pulse 1A0 (meltwaterpulse 19ka), meltwater pulse 1B, meltwater pulse 1C, meltwater pulse 1D, and meltwater pulse 2. It and these other periods of rapid sea level rise are known as meltwater pulses because the inferred cause of them was the rapid release of meltwater into the oceans from the collapse of continental ice sheets.[1][3]


Meltwater pulse 1A occurred in a period of rapid climate change when the retreat of continental ice sheets was going on during the end of the last ice age. Several researchers have narrowed the period of the pulse to between 13,500 and 14,700 calendar years ago with its peak at about 13,800 calendar years ago.[3] The start of this meltwater event coincides with or closely follows the abrupt onset of the Bølling-Allerød (B-A) interstadial and warming in the NorthGRIP ice core in Greenland at 14,600 calendar years ago.[4]

Sea level[edit]

During meltwater pulse 1A, sea level is estimated to have risen at a rate of 30–60 mm (0.098–0.197 ft)/yr.[1] This rate of sea level rise was much larger than the rate of current sea level rise, which has been estimated to be in the region of 2–3 mm (0.0066–0.0098 ft)/yr.[5][6]

Source(s) of meltwater pulse 1A[edit]

The source of meltwaters for meltwater pulse 1A and the path they took remains a matter of continuing controversy. The technique of sea-level fingerprinting has been used to argue that major contribution to this meltwater pulse came from Antarctica.[7][8] On the other hand, other studies have argued for the Laurentide Ice Sheet in North America being the dominate source of this meltwater pulse.[9][10] The magnitude of eustatic sea level rise during meltwater pulse 1A is a significant indicator of its sources. A eustatic sea level rise around 10 meters (33 ft) could plausibly be solely explained by a North American source. On the other hand, if the eustatic sea level rise was larger and closer to 20 meters (66 ft), a significant fraction of the meltwater that caused it likely came from the Antarctic Ice Sheet.[11][12]

Mississippi River meltwater flood MWF-4[edit]

Fortunately, in case of the Mississippi River, the sediments of the Louisiana continental shelf and slope, including the Orca Basin, within the Gulf of Mexico preserve a variety of paleoclimate and paleohydrologic proxies.[13][14][15] They have been used to reconstruct both the duration and discharge of Mississippi River meltwater events and superfloods for the Late glacial and postglacial periods, including the time of meltwater pulse 1A.[16][17][18] The chronology of flooding events found by the study of numerous cores on the Louisiana continental shelf and slope are in agreement that the timing of meltwater pulses 1A and 1B in the Barbados coral record matches quite well the meltwater flood, MWF-4, that is centered at about 11,900 radiocarbon years ago and four superfood events, MWF-5, that occurred between 9,900 to 9,100 radiocarbon years ago. The discharge of water coursing down the Mississippi River during meltwater flood MWF-4 is estimated to have been 0.15 sverdrups (million cubic meters per second). This discharge is roughly equivalent to 50% of the global discharge during meltwater pulse 1A. This research also shows that the Mississppi meltwater flood MWF-4 occurred during the Allerød oscillation and had largely stopped before the beginning of the Younger Dryas stadial. The same research found an absence of meltwater floods discharging into the Gulf of Mexico from the Mississippi River for a period of time following meltwater flood MWF-4, known as the cessation event, that corresponds with the Younger Dryas stadial.[13][14][17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Cronin, T.M. (2012) Rapid sea-level rise. Quaternary Science Reviews. 56:11-30.
  2. ^ Blanchon, P., and J. Shaw (1995) Reef drowning during the last deglaciation: Evidence for catastrophic sea-level rise and ice-sheet collapse. Geology. 23(1):4-8.
  3. ^ a b Gornitz, Vivien (2009). Encyclopedia of paleoclimatology and ancient environments. Springer. p. 890 (Table S1). ISBN 978-1-4020-4551-6. 
  4. ^ Blanchon, P. (2011) Meltwater Pulses. In: Hopley, D. ed., pp. 683-690, Encyclopedia of Modern Coral Reefs: Structure, form and process. Springer-Verlag Earth Science Series, Springer Science, New York. ISBN 9789048126408
  5. ^ Chambers, D. P.; Ries, J. C.; Urban, T. J. (2003). "Calibration and Verification of Jason-1 Using Global Along-Track Residuals with TOPEX". Marine Geodesy 26 (3): 305. doi:10.1080/714044523. 
  6. ^ Bindoff, NL et al. "Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.". Cambridge University Press  |chapter= ignored (help)
  7. ^ Bassett, S.E., Milne, G.A., Mitrovica, J.X., Clark, P.U., 2005. Ice sheet and solid Earth influences on far-field sea-level histories. Science 309:925–928.
  8. ^ Deschamps, P., N. Durand, E. Bard, B. Hamelin, G. Camoin, A.L. Thomas, G.M. Henderson, J. Okuno, and Y. Yokoyama, Yusuke (2012) Ice-sheet collapse and sea-level rise at the Bolling warming. Nature. 483(7391):559-564.
  9. ^ Tarasov, L., and W.R. Peltier (2006) A calibrated deglacial drainage chronology for the North American continent: evidence of an Arctic trigger for the Younger Dryas. Quaternary Science Reviews. 25:659–688.
  10. ^ Bentley, M.J., C.J. Fogwill, A.M. Le Brocq, A.L. Hubbard, D.E. Sugden, T.J. Dunai, and S.P.H.T. Freeman (2010) Deglacial history of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet in the Weddell Sea embayment: constraints on past ice volume change. Geology. 38(5):411-414.
  11. ^ Clark, P.U., R.B. Alley, L.D. Keigwin, J.M. Licciardi, S. Johnsen, and H. Wang (1996) Origin of the first global meltwater pulse following the last glacial maximum. Paleoceanography. 11(5):563-577.
  12. ^ Carlson, A.E., D.J. Ullman, F.S. Anslow, S. Faron, F. He, P.U. Clark, Z. Liu, and B.L. Otto-Bliesner (2012) Modeling the surface mass-balance response of the Laurentide ice sheet to Bolling warming and its contribution to Meltwater Pulse 1A. Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 315-316:24-29.
  13. ^ a b Biller, N.B. (2012) Evidence for Meltwater Pulse 1a in the Gulf of Mexico based on radiogenic isotopes of leachates. Undergraduate Thesis, Department of Geological Sciences University of Florida, Tallahassee, Florida. 39 pp.
  14. ^ a b Meckler, A.N., C.J. Schubert, P.A. Hochuli, B. Plessen, D. Birgel, B.P. Flower, K.-U. Hinrichs, and G.H. Haug (2008) Glacial to Holocene terrigenous organic matter input to sediments from Orca Basin, Gulf of Mexico. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 272 (2008) 251–263.
  15. ^ Marchitto, T.M. K.-Y. Wei (1995) History of Laurentide meltwater flow to the Gulf of Mexico during the last deglaciation, as revealed by reworked calcareous nannofossils Geology. 23(9):779-782.
  16. ^ Kennett, P., K. Elmstrom, and N. Penrose (1985) The last deglaciation in orca basin, gulf of Mexico: High-resolution planktonic foraminiferal changes. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. 50(1):189-216.
  17. ^ a b Aharon, P. (2003) Meltwater Flooding Events in the Gulf of Mexico Revisited: Implications for Rapid Climate Changes During the Last Deglaciation. Paleoceanography. 18(4):3-1 to 3-13.
  18. ^ Aharon, P. (2006) Entrainment of meltwaters in hyperpycnal flows during deglaciation superfloods in the Gulf of Mexico. Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 241:260–270.

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