Evidence from the Florida Straits for Younger Dryas ocean circulation changes



[1] The waters passing through the Florida Straits today reflect both the western portion of the wind-driven subtropical gyre and the northward flow of the upper waters which cross the equator, compensating North Atlantic Deep Water export as part of the large-scale Atlantic meridional overturning circulation. It has been postulated from various lines of evidence that the overturning circulation was weaker during the Younger Dryas cold event of the last deglaciation. We show here that the contrast in the oxygen isotopic composition of benthic foraminiferal tests across the Florida Current is reduced during the Younger Dryas. This most likely reflects a decrease in the density gradient across the channel and a decrease in the vertical shear of the Florida Current. This reduced shear is consistent with the postulated reduction in the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation. We find that the onset of this change in density structure and flow at the start of the Younger Dryas is very abrupt, occurring in less than 70 years.