Hudson Strait ice dam collapse: An explanation for the onset of the Younger Dryas cold climate in Europe in only one year


  • Robert Glenn Johnson Department of Earth Sciences, University of Minnesota, USA Received January 2021 accepted February 2021



Laurentide ice dome, Sudden climate change, Ice dam collapse, Younger Dryas


The Younger Dryas cold climate event in Europe began abruptly at about 12,679 years BP. The abruptness of the onset was caused by the rapid collapse of a dynamic ice dam that had existed because of ice stream flow across the east end of Hudson Strait in northern Canada. The resulting flood of icebergs into the southern half of the Northern Gyre adjacent to the Gulf Stream converted western Europe’s mild climate to an arctic climate. The collapse event was caused by the last large accumulation of glacial ice in the thick ice dome of Hudson Bay. The accumulation created a pressure gradient that forced an ice stream flow eastward in Hudson Strait. A highly saline sub-glacial lake had formed earlier in the western part of the strait. The ice stream flow entrained saline lake water in a network of channels at the seabed between the lake and the ice dam, melting and extending the network eventually to and beneath the ice dam. This detached much of the ice dam from its frozen bed and caused its catastrophic collapse and the onset of the Younger Dryas in only one year.


Download data is not yet available.


Heinrich, H., (1988) Origin and consequences of cyclic ice rafting in the northeast Atlantic Ocean during the past 130,000 years, Quaternary Research, vol. 29, p. 142-152.

MacAyeal, D., (1993) Binge/purge oscillations of the Laurentide ice sheet as a cause of North Atlantic’s Heinrich events, Paleoceanography, vol. 8, p. 775-784.

Leydet, D., A. Carlson, J. Teller, A. Breckenridge, A. Barth, D. Ullman, G. Sinclair, G. Milne, J. Cuzzone, and M. Caffee (2018) Opening of glacial Lake Agassiz’s eastern outlets by the start of the Younger Dryas cold period, Geology, vol. 46.10.1130/G39501.1

Alvarez-Solas, J., M, Montoya, C. Ritz, G. Ramstein, S. Charbit, C.Dumas, K. Misancioglu, T. Dokken, and A. Ganopolski (2011) Heinrich event 1: an example of dynamic ice-sheet reaction to oceanic changes, Climate Past, vol. 7, p. 1297-1306.

Brauer, A., G.H. Haug, P. Dulski, D.M. Sigman, and J.F.W. Negendank (2008) An abrupt wind shift in western Europe at the onset of the Younger Dryas cold period, Nature Geoscience, vol. 1, p. 520-523.

Johnson, R.G., and S.-E. Lauritzen (1995) Hudson Bay-Hudson Strait joklulhlaups and Heinrich events: a hypothesis, Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, vol. 148, p. 123-137.

Greatbatch, R.J., and J. Xu, (1993) On the transport of volume and heat through sections across the North Atlantic: Climatology and the pentads 1955- 1959, 1970-1974, Journal of Geophysical Research, vol. 98, p. 10125-10143.

Bond, G., W. Broecker, S. Johnsen, J. McManus, L. Labeyrie, J. Jouzel, and G. Bonani (1993) Correlations between climate records from North Atlantic sediments and Greenland ice, Nature, vol. 365, p. 143-147.

Stravers, J.A., G.H. Miller, and D.S. Kaufman (1992) Late glacial ice margins and deglacial chronology for southeastern Baffin Island and Hudson Strait, eastern Canadian Arctic, Canadian Journal of Earth Science, vol. 29, p. 1000-1917.

Blake Jr., W., (1966) End moraines and deglaciation chronology in northern Canada, with special reference to southern Baffin Island, Geological Survey of Canada, paper 66-26.




How to Cite

Johnson, R. G. (2021). Hudson Strait ice dam collapse: An explanation for the onset of the Younger Dryas cold climate in Europe in only one year. JOURNAL OF ADVANCES IN NATURAL SCIENCES, 18, 1–11.