Articles | Volume 9, issue 1
Research article
06 Feb 2013
Research article |  | 06 Feb 2013

Dansgaard–Oeschger events: bifurcation points in the climate system

A. A. Cimatoribus, S. S. Drijfhout, V. Livina, and G. van der Schrier

Abstract. Dansgaard–Oeschger events are a prominent mode of variability in the records of the last glacial cycle. Various prototype models have been proposed to explain these rapid climate fluctuations, and no agreement has emerged on which may be the more correct for describing the palaeoclimatic signal. In this work, we assess the bimodality of the system, reconstructing the topology of the multi-dimensional attractor over which the climate system evolves. We use high-resolution ice core isotope data to investigate the statistical properties of the climate fluctuations in the period before the onset of the abrupt change. We show that Dansgaard–Oeschger events have weak early warning signals if the ensemble of events is considered. We find that the statistics are consistent with the switches between two different climate equilibrium states in response to a changing external forcing (e.g. solar, ice sheets), either forcing directly the transition or pacing it through stochastic resonance. These findings are most consistent with a model that associates Dansgaard–Oeschger with changing boundary conditions, and with the presence of a bifurcation point.