Haapaniemi, A.I., Scourse, J.D., Peck, V.L., Kennedy, H., Kennedy, P., Hemming, S.R., Furze, M.F.A., Pieńkowski, A.J., Austin, W.E.N., Walden, J., Wadsworth, E. & Hall, I.R. 2010: Source, timing, frequency and flux of ice-rafted detritus to the Northeast Atlantic margin, 30–12 ka: testing the Heinrich precursor hypothesis. Boreas, Vol. 39, pp. 576–591. 10.1111/j.1502-3885.2010.00141.x. ISSN 0300-9483.
Increased fluxes of ice-rafted detritus (IRD) from European ice sheets have been documented some 1000–1500 years before the arrival of Laurentide Ice Sheet (LIS)-sourced IRD during Heinrich (H) events. These early fluxes have become known as ‘precursor events’, and it has been suggested that they have mechanistic significance in the propagation of H events. Here we present a re-analysis of one of the main cores used to generate the precursor concept, OMEX-2K from the Goban Spur covering the last 30 ka, in order to identify whether the British–Irish Ice Sheet (BIIS) IRD fluxes occur only as precursors before H layers. IRD characterization and planktonic foraminiferal δ18O measurements constrained by a new age model have enabled the generation of a continuous record of IRD sources, timing, frequency and flux, and of local contemporary hydrographic conditions. The evidence indicates that BIIS IRD precursors are not uniquely, or mechanistically, linked to H events, but are part of the pervasive millennial-scale cyclicity. Our results support an LIS source for the IRD comprising H layers, but the ambient glacial sections are dominated by assemblages typical of the Irish Sea Ice Stream. Light isotope excursions associated with H events are interpreted as resulting from the melting of the BIIS, with ice-sheet destabilization attributed to eustatic jumps generated by LIS discharge during H events. This positive-feedback mechanism probably caused similar responses in all circum-Atlantic ice-sheet margins, and the resulting gross freshwater flux contributed to the perturbation of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation during H events.