Skip to main content
Log in

Origin of the northern Atlantic's Heinrich events

  • Longer Records of Change
  • Published:
Climate Dynamics Aims and scope Submit manuscript


As first noted by Heinrich, 1988, glacial age sediments in the eastern part of the northern Atlantic contain layers with unusually high ratios of ice-rafted lithic fragments to foraminifera shells. He estimated that these layers are spaced at intervals of roughly 10 000 years. In this paper we present detailed information documenting the existence of the upper five of these layers in ODP core 609 from 50° N and 24° W. Their ages are respectively 15 000 radiocarbon years, 20 000 radiocarbon years, 27 000 radiocarbon years, about 40 000 years, and about 50 000 years. We also note that the high lithic fragment to foram ratio is the result of a near absence of shells in these layers. Although we are not of one mind regarding the origin of these layers, we lean toward an explanation that the Heinrich layers are debris released during the melting of massive influxes of icebergs into the northern Atlantic. These sudden inputs may be the result of surges along the eastern margin of the Laurentide ice sheet.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others


  • Boyle EA, Keigwin L (1987) North Atlantic thermohaline circulation during the past 20 000 years linked to high-latitude surface temperature. Nature 330:35–40

    Google Scholar 

  • Broecker WS, Bond G, Klas M, Bonani G. Wolfli W (1990) A salt oscillator in the glacial Atlantic? 1. The Concept. Paleoceanog 5:469–477

    Google Scholar 

  • Broecker WS, Denton G (1989) The role of ocean-atmosphere reorganizations in glacial cycles. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 53:2465–2501

    Google Scholar 

  • Hammer CU, Claussen HB, Dansgaard W, Neftel A, Kristinsdottir P, Johnson E (1985) Continuous impurity analysis along the Dye 3 deep core. In: Langway CC, Oeschger H, Dansgaard W (eds) Greenland ice core: geophysics, geochemistry and the environment. American Geophysical Union Monography 33, pp 90–94

  • Heinrich H (1988) Origin and consequences of cyclic ice rafting in the northeast Atlantic Ocean during the past 130 000 years. Quat Res 29:143–152

    Google Scholar 

  • Ruddiman WF, McIntyre A (1987) The North Atlantic ocean during the last deglaciation. Paleogeog Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 35:145–214

    Google Scholar 

  • Schlüchter C (1988) The deglaciation of the Swiss-Alps: paleoclimatic event with chronological problems. Bull Assoc francaise Quat, pp 141–145

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Additional information

Contribution to Clima Locarno — Past and Present Climate Dynamics; Conference September 1990, Swiss Academy of Sciences — National Climate Program

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Broecker, W., Bond, G., Klas, M. et al. Origin of the northern Atlantic's Heinrich events. Climate Dynamics 6, 265–273 (1992).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: