Sea-ice switches and abrupt climate change

Philos Trans A Math Phys Eng Sci. 2003 Sep 15;361(1810):1935-42; discussion 1942-4. doi: 10.1098/rsta.2003.1244.


We propose that past abrupt climate changes were probably a result of rapid and extensive variations in sea-ice cover. We explain why this seems a perhaps more likely explanation than a purely thermohaline circulation mechanism. We emphasize that because of the significant influence of sea ice on the climate system, it seems that high priority should be given to developing ways for reconstructing high-resolution (in space and time) sea-ice extent for past climate-change events. If proxy data can confirm that sea ice was indeed the major player in past abrupt climate-change events, it seems less likely that such dramatic abrupt changes will occur due to global warming, when extensive sea-ice cover will not be present.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Climate
  • Cold Climate*
  • Evolution, Planetary
  • Greenhouse Effect
  • Ice*
  • Oceans and Seas
  • Periodicity*
  • Seawater*
  • Temperature


  • Ice