Regional temperature, atmospheric circulation, and sea-ice variability within the Younger Dryas Event constrained using a speleothem from northern Iberia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Lisa M. Baldini
  • Frank McDermott
  • James U L Baldini
  • Pablo Arias
  • Marián Cueto
  • Dirk L. Hoffmann
  • David P. Mattey
  • Wolfgang Müller
  • Dan Constantin Nita
  • Roberto Ontañón
  • Cristina Garciá-Moncó
  • David A. Richards

External organisations

  • Durham University
  • University College Dublin
  • University of Cantabria
  • Dep. of Physics, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham TW20 0EX, UK
  • University of Bristol


Precisely-dated, high-resolution stable isotope and trace element data from a stalagmite from La Garma Cave, northern Spain, reveal several stages of distinct climatic variability along the northern Iberian Atlantic margin, and provide new constraints on the latitude of North Atlantic westerlies during the Younger Dryas Event (YD). Westerly wind position (reconstructed using sub-annually resolved Mg data as a proxy for sea spray contributions associated with wind strength at this coastal cave site) during the early YD (12.85-12.15 kyr) oscillated meridionally, resembling the decadal-scale component of the modern North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). Northward repositioning of westerly storm tracks over northern Iberia began at ~12.15 kyr, consistent with other high-resolution wind proxy reconstructions from central and northern Europe, but occurred more gradually nearer the Atlantic margin. From ~12.15 kyr to the YD termination, atmospheric circulation resembled a persistently positive NAO, with westerlies reaching their maximum northward extent at 11.8 kyr (reflected by a Mg concentration minimum at this time). Air temperature (reflected by our δ18O data) and Iberian wind strength were predominantly coupled throughout the YD suggesting that temperature modulated sea-ice extent, and consequently controlled westerly wind latitude. However our data suggest that abrupt warming at 12.1 kyr was followed by much more gradual northward shifts in westerly position, and that a lag existed between the warming and sea-ice retreat. This gradual return of the westerlies to the north beginning at 12.1 kyr is consistent with inferred changes in wind strength at other European sites. Additionally, atmospheric circulation inferred from our northern Iberian wind strength proxy record generally tracked low-frequency meridional shifts in Intertropical Convergence Zone position, corroborating past research that suggested closely coupled low- and high-latitude atmospheric teleconnections over this period.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-110
Number of pages10
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2015


  • Isotopes, NAO, Stalagmite, Trace elements, Westerlies, Younger Dryas