The Bering Strait connects the Arctic and Pacific oceans and separates the North American and Asian landmasses. The presently shallow ( ĝ1/4 53 m) strait was exposed during the sea level lowstand of the last glacial period, which permitted human migration across a land bridge today referred to as the Bering Land Bridge. Proxy studies (stable isotope composition of foraminifera, whale migration into the Arctic Ocean, mollusc and insect fossils and paleobotanical data) have suggested a range of ages for the Bering Strait reopening, mainly falling within the Younger Dryas stadial (12.9-11.7 cal ka BP). Here we provide new information on the deglacial and post-glacial evolution of the Arctic-Pacific connection through the Bering Strait based on analyses of geological and geophysical data from Herald Canyon, located north of the Bering Strait on the Chukchi Sea shelf region in the western Arctic Ocean. Our results suggest an initial opening at about 11 cal ka BP in the earliest Holocene, which is later than in several previous studies. Our key evidence is based on a well-dated core from Herald Canyon, in which a shift from a near-shore environment to a Pacific-influenced open marine setting at around 11 cal ka BP is observed. The shift corresponds to meltwater pulse 1b (MWP1b) and is interpreted to signify relatively rapid breaching of the Bering Strait and the submergence of the large Bering Land Bridge. Although the precise rates of sea level rise cannot be quantified, our new results suggest that the late deglacial sea level rise was rapid and occurred after the end of the Younger Dryas stadial.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Global and Planetary Change