Direct evidence for thinning and retreat of the southernmost Greenland ice sheet during the Younger Dryas

Anders E. Carlson*, Alberto V. Reyes, Emily Gusterson, Yarrow Axford, Klaus M. Wilcken, Dylan H. Rood

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


During the last deglaciation, North Atlantic climate abruptly warmed at the Bølling (∼14.7 ka), cooled into the Younger Dryas (∼12.9 ka) and abruptly warmed again into the Holocene (∼11.7 ka). While these events are defined by Greenland ice cores, there is still considerable uncertainty on Greenland ice-sheet margin responses to abrupt climate change. To refine the ice sheet's deglacial history, we present new cosmogenic nuclide surface exposure ages from boulders on bedrock at five sites in southernmost Greenland fjords located midway between the coast and inland ice margin. We find ice-sheet thinning below three local topographic highs at 12.7 ± 0.3 ka (n = 3), 13.1 ± 0.4 ka (n = 1, 2 outliers), and 12.3 ± 0.2 ka (n = 3), with up-fjord retreat at 12.5 ± 0.3 ka (n = 3) and 12.7 ± 0.2 ka (n = 4) based on two sites just above the mid-fjord marine limit. These mid-fjord 10Be ages therefore show southernmost Greenland ice-sheet thinning and retreat during the Younger Dryas. We hypothesize that this thinning and retreat was a response to ocean warming prior to the Holocene and/or summer shortwave radiative forcing during the Younger Dryas due to peak boreal summer insolation. Our results also support a previously hypothesized winter bias in proxy records of Younger Dryas atmospheric cooling, since a large summer cooling during the Younger Dryas could have counteracted the effects of ocean warming and direct radiative forcing, inhibiting ice-sheet retreat.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number107105
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
StatePublished - Sep 1 2021


  • Cosmogenic isotopes
  • Glaciation
  • Greenland
  • Paleoclimatology
  • Pleistocene

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology
  • Geology


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