Unmatched dust storms raged over Western Europe during Ice age maximum

Posted: February 2, 2021 by oldbrew in dust, Ice ages, paleo, research, wind

Image credit: ScienceDaily

This has echoes of the ice age dust/albedo theory – with no CO2 feedbacks – proposed by Ralph Ellis a few years ago. The article concludes: ‘The result thus has the potential to aid the understanding of the abrupt warming and cooling periods during the ice ages called Dansgaard/Oeschger events which bear the marks of climate tipping points.’

– – –
Every late winter and early spring, huge dust storms swirled across the bare and frozen landscapes of Europe during the coldest periods of the latest ice age, says Phys.org.

These paleo-tempests, which are seldom matched in our modern climate frequently covered Western Europe in some of the thickest layers of ice-age dust found anywhere previously on Earth.

This is demonstrated by a series of new estimates of the sedimentation and accumulation rates of European loess layers obtained by Senior Research Scientist Denis-Didier Rousseau from Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, France, and colleagues.

The work, which is published in Quaternary Science Reviews is part of the TiPES project on tipping points in the Earth system, coordinated by The University of Copenhagen.

In the study Denis-Didier Rousseau and colleagues reinterpreted layers in loess from Nussloch, Germany.

Loess is a fine-silt-sized earth type found all over the world. It mainly consists of aeolian sediments, which are materials transported by the wind from dry areas without vegetation such as deserts of any type, moraines, or dried-out river beds.

Within the aeolian sediments, darker layers of paleosol alternate within the loess layers. Every layer in the loess represents a shift in climatic conditions.

At Nussloch the paleosols stem from periods of milder climate, called interstadials during the ice age. The aeolian layers were deposited during the cold periods and consist mainly of dust and silt from the dry riverbeds of the Rhine river.

Traditionally in the academic field of paleo-climate, it has been assumed that interstadial paleosols developed on top of the underlying layer, by accumulation when the shift to a relatively mild climate allowed a richer biology to flourish in the region.

Into the dust

But careful sampling and accurate dating of the loess sedimentation from Nussloch with luminescence and 14C by Denis-Didier Rousseau and colleagues have now shown that this is not the case.

Instead, in Europe, paleosols developed down into the underlying layer, not on top of the dust.

Full article here.

  1. Curious George says:

    “Unmatched dust storms raged over Western Europe..” For all we know, matching dust storms raged all over Eastern Europe, China, and Canada.

  2. Graeme No.3 says:

    Reid Bryson was an early climate change researcher. A contempory of Hubert Lamb and no believer in carbon dioxide induced warming. He thought that increasing dust levels in the atmosphere induced global cooling.
    If you can find a copy “Climates of hunger : mankind and the world’s changing weather” [by] Reid A. Bryson and Thomas J. Murray you would find it interesting esp. for his historical notes on Indian cultures changing locations in response to changes in climate and US Army temperature figures from western forts in the nineteen century.

  3. DB says:

    “For all we know, matching dust storms raged all over Eastern Europe, China, and Canada.”

    Here in the midwestern US, the dust storms deposited loess south of the glaciers, in some places some seven meters thick. The fine soil compacted and formed clay rich in minerals. As the climate warmed prairie grass grew and eventually turned the clay to good topsoil. Places such as Iowa and Illinois developed top soil up to a meter thick.

  4. oldbrew says:

    Dust deposition on ice sheets: a mechanism for termination of ice ages?
    Posted on October 2, 2016 by curryja
    by Donald Rapp

    In a recent paper, Ellis and Palmer (2016) proposed that deposition of dust on giant ice sheets, thus reducing their albedo, was a principal factor in the termination of Ice Ages over the past 800 kyrs.


    The origin and causes of quasi-periodic Ice Ages over the past ~800,000 years is an intriguing topic that has fascinated many scientists. Many hundreds of papers have been published, and a consensus has grown that a key factor is the so-called Milankovitch model of variable solar input to high northern latitudes dues to wobbles in the Earth’s orbit. While this model has significant resemblance in outline to the ice core and sediment data, there are also some notable exceptions and deviations. The most difficult thing to explain is why Ice Ages end at all, and particularly why they end so suddenly.


    The most difficult thing to explain is why Ice Ages end at all, and particularly why they end so suddenly.

    The solid ice increases in temperature gradually until it approaches zero C. From then on the conversion from solid to liquid is relatively quick. Is that too obvious to be relevant?

  5. tom0mason says:

    Maybe the corollary to a dusty end to ice ages is heightening atmospheric humidity at the end of a warm period. Oceans building up heat during a warm period is released as a cool periods starts.

  6. oldbrew says:

    First published: 28 November 1995


    Were the ice ages triggered by an influx of extraterrestrial dust or meteoroids hitting Earth’s upper atmosphere? A controversial and still unproven new theory recently described by Muller and MacDonald [1995] in Nature links the 100,000 year glacial cycle with changes in Earth’s orbital inclination relative to the plane of the solar system. And, say the theory developers, the only logical mechanism they can find for the connection is increasing amounts of extraterrestrial material entering the atmosphere whenever Earth’s orbit sweeps through the solar plane. Climate researchers are just beginning to test the model’s predictions.
    – – –
    Glacial cycles and orbital inclination
    Richard A. Muller
    January 1994
    Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory Report LBL-35665

    Abstract. According to the Milankovitch theory of climate change, the 100 kyr glacial
    cycle is due to changes in insolation as the eccentricity of the earth is perturbed. We
    propose instead that the cycle is due to oscillations in the inclination of the Earth’s orbit
    (nutation) and resulting changes in extraterrestrial accretion. The model can be tested by
    measuring iridium in sediments and ice.

    Click to access lbl-35665.pdf

  7. oldbrew says:

    Spectrum of 100-kyr glacial cycle: Orbital inclination, not eccentricity

    Since orbital inclination does not affect insolation, we must search for another mechanism relating changes in orbital inclination to changes in global climate. The only plausible one we have found is accretion of interplanetary material: meteoroids and dust. As the orbit of the earth changes, it passes through different parts of the sun’s zodiacal ring and encounters different regions of density of material. Changes in inclination will be reflected in changes of accretion. The meteoroids and dust will, through orbital processes, tend to concentrate in the invariable plane. As the earth passes through the invariable plane, accretion increases, and we speculate that glaciers grow, while recession of glaciers takes place during high inclinations when the earth’s orbit tips out of the invariable plane. We emphasize that this mechanism is speculative, and that there is no known meteoroid or dust band that satisfies all the properties that we require, although it is possible that such a band could exist. We will offer some indirect evidence that accretion does vary with orbital inclination. [bold added]

    – – –
    Or is the dust generated on Earth itself, as per the Ellis theory?

  8. oldmanK says:

    Quote: “The solid ice increases in temperature gradually until it approaches zero C. From then on the conversion from solid to liquid is relatively quick. Is that too obvious to be relevant?”

    It takes a lot more heat to change phase than to change temperature. So melting at same insolation conditions will take even longer.

  9. oldmanK says:

    Go to post “The Arctic Ocean was covered by a shelf ice and filled with freshwater” and to the post by malagabay showing ice mountains covered by material that changed its albedo. The ice did not melt.

  10. Paul Vaughan says:

    OB: Based on some of the links you repeat I think you missed some of the discussions we had years ago (at a number of other sites) …but I’m never going to have time to get into a discussion about these things again. All I will say is people obsess about insolation and TSI and they are totally uneducated about circulation structure even if they have a clue about material phase changes. In particular I find 99.9% of climate commentators absolutely and totally ignorant about heat engine basics (equator-pole & pole-pole). The earth orientation parameter community understands heat engines rigorously — for example reading the relevant chapters from Sidorenkov’s book is the best investment in climate understanding anyone can make. It’s prerequisite for any sensible discussion.

  11. oldmanK says:

    ???? The link in my earlier post seems to have been replaced. The new pic is misleading.

    To put it in numbers, it takes 2.06kJ/kg of ice to raise it it one degree, but it takes 333.55kJ to melt that 1kg of ice.

    There is only one heat source – the sun – (earth’s internal source is quite small in comparison), so how does one figure so fast glacial melting? So what earth ‘convolutions’ are required to achieve that. A solar heat burst? but that fries everything alive.

  12. oldbrew says:

    oldmanK – sorry, corrected your diagram now. WordPress won’t display links containing ‘:’ but I substituted a version of Wikipedia’s water phase diagram instead of the water phase change one.

  13. oldmanK says:

    oldbrew: all’s well that ends well -or better-; I myself needed to have a look at the actual numbers. There is a ‘thermodynamic’ mystery IMO.
    Take the idea of ocean melting the ice. The specific heat of water is ~4.2kJ/kg. Heat transfer from water to ice when the thermal/temperature difference is a few degrees I expect to be very low, unless I’m missing something.

    To put out an odd question here: What need to be the obliquity of the earth so that solar insolation is refracted and absorbed on clean ice, rather than reflected out to space?

  14. oldbrew says:

    Caption: Reflectance of smooth water at 20°C (refractive index 1.333).

    From: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reflectance#Water_reflectance

  15. Paul Vaughan says:

    A lot of discussion seems to assume implicitly that fluids don’t move, but circulation is the MAIN signal in records.

    For the simplest example: ice in the polar winter isn’t getting any heat from local insolation. Dominant signals are a function of circulation.

    The pace of circulation varies as a function of insolation inputs mixed in aggregate by major gyre structure on a poleward trip from elsewhere. So not temperature directly but temperature mediated by circulation where circulation = function of ‘TSI’ ‘insolation’ with formidable scrambling through gyre structure and material phase changes.

    Localized intense funneling thus interferes with naive attempts to extrapolate a ‘global’ calibration curve. Even in recent records we have a good example of that: the early 20th century vs. the late 18th and early 19th century, which makes it crystal clear how nonlinear the funneling makes correct calibration.

    That’s a measure of gulf stream squirting wet heat into arctic — or not. It’s dominant and it’s nonlinear. Drake passage opening & closing is another big switch. Geographic funneling is key to correct calibration, yet 99.99% of discussion seems locked in purely artificial and strictly incorrect uniformity assumptions. That has been worse than useless.

    A calibration story to consider: Say you have a tachometer measuring engine revs …but you don’t know about the effect of gears on speed. You may need an observation record including a few different gears before you get good at extrapolating to the relationship between revs and speed in gears you haven’t seen — and then there are uphill, flat, and downhill stretches that may challenge your signal recognition skills to calibrate speed to physically related revs.

    Heat engines got ignored in discussions a decade ago, so we know $0[]well IT’s 1984. Climate commentators were steered to passionate extremes weather left or right without competent expert counsel to understand heat engine fundamentals as rigorously as does the earth orientation parameter community.

    Once the last few hundred years of the record were thoroughly misunderstood by passionate masses both left and right, IT’s iron-fisted guides were able to effortlessly extrapolate their ‘party control’ curve to “who controls the past controls the future”. West turn tragedy since bases weather left and right NEVER had a proper foundation. Easy work for the elite.

  16. oldmanK says:

    PV raises a point by ” but circulation is the MAIN signal in records”. Records can hold signatures of multiple signals that are not necessarily drivers.

    Sea water circulation is necessary to maintain water temperature at water/ice interface. But heat transfer to ice for melting of the ice depend on the temp diff, delta-T, and surface/contact area. Both parameters are low, especially when it comes to explain the ‘Meltwater pulse’ at the end of the YD. Especially with inland glacial ice.

    There are however interesting signals. At 2345bce polar areas at both poles saw an abrupt temperature increase, simultaneous with a temp decrease and glacial ice increase in equatorial regions (Kilimanjaro and Quelccaya in Peru). Certainly none of the latter were from water circulation.

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