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Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Where did the water go?

© 2010 Nature Publishing Group

The freshwater released by the melting of the Laurentide Ice Sheet has been hypothesised to have impeded the meridional overturning (thermohaline) circulation of the North Atlantic, triggering the Younger Dryas cooling event. The melting ice would have formed Lake Agassiz, but how did the water get from there to the oceans? A new study just published in Nature by Murton et al. combines field observations, isostatic modelling and optically-stimulated luminescence dating to counter the traditional view that the water must have drained to the North Atlantic along the St Lawrence River, instead advocating a path along the Mackenzie River to the Arctic Ocean.