Geochronology and paleoclimatic implications of the last deglaciation of the Mauna Kea Ice Cap, Hawaii

Faron S. Anslow, Peter U Clark, Mark D. Kurz, Steven W. Hostetler

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    12 Citations (Scopus)


    We present new 3He surface exposure ages on moraines and bedrock near the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii, which refine the age of the Mauna Kea Ice Cap during the Local Last Glacial Maximum (LLGM) and identify a subsequent fluctuation of the ice margin. The 3He ages, when combined with those reported previously, indicate that the local ice-cap margin began to retreat from its LLGM extent at 20.5 ± 2.5 ka, in agreement with the age of deglaciation determined from LLGM moraines elsewhere in the tropics. The ice-cap margin receded to a position at least 3 km upslope for ∼ 4.5–5.0 kyr before readvancing nearly to its LLGM extent. The timing of this readvance at ∼ 15.4 ka corresponds to a large reduction of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) following Heinrich Event 1. Subsequent ice-margin retreat began at 14.6 ± 1.9 ka, corresponding to a rapid resumption of the AMOC and onset of the Bølling warm interval, with the ice cap melting rapidly to complete deglaciation. Additional 3He ages obtained from a flood deposit date the catastrophic outburst of a moraine-dammed lake roughly coeval with the Younger Dryas cold interval, suggesting a more active hydrological cycle on Mauna Kea at this time. A coupled mass balance and ice dynamics model is used to constrain the climate required to generate ice caps of LLGM and readvance sizes. The depression of the LLGM equilibrium line altitude requires atmospheric cooling of 4.5 ± 1 °C, whereas the mass balance modeling indicates an accompanying increase in precipitation of as much as three times that of present. We hypothesize (1) that the LLGM temperature depression was associated with global cooling, (2) that the temperature depression that contributed to the readvance occurred in response to an atmospheric teleconnection to the North Atlantic, and (3) that the precipitation enhancement associated with both events occurred in response to a southward shift in the position of the inter-tropical convergence zone (ITCZ). Such a shift in the ITCZ would have allowed midlatitude cyclones to reach Mauna Kea more frequently which would have increased precipitation at high elevations and caused additional cooling.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)234-248
    JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
    Issue number1-2
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - Aug 2010


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