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Cooling and sinking of dense saline water in the Norwegian–Greenland Sea is essential for the formation of North Atlantic Deep Water. The convection in the Norwegian–Greenland Sea allows for a northward flow of warm surface water and southward transport of cold saline water. This circulation system is highly sensitive to climate change and has been shown to operate in different modes. In ice cores the last glacial period is characterized by millennial-scale Dansgaard–Oeschger (D–O) events of warm interstadials and cold stadials. Similar millennial-scale variability (linked to D–O events) is evident from oceanic cores, suggesting a strong coupling of the atmospheric and oceanic circulations system. Particularly long-lasting cold stadials correlate with North Atlantic Heinrich events, where icebergs released from the continents caused a spread of meltwater over the northern North Atlantic and Nordic seas. The meltwater layer is believed to have caused a stop or near-stop in the deep convection, leading to cold climate. The spreading of meltwater and changes in oceanic circulation have a large influence on the carbon exchange between atmosphere and the deep ocean and lead to profound changes in the 14C activity of the surface ocean. Here we demonstrate marine 14C reservoir ages (R) of up to c. 2000 years for Heinrich event H4. Our R estimates are based on a new method for age model construction using identified tephra layers and tie-points based on abrupt interstadial warmings.

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