The discovery of the Younger Dryas, and comments on the current meaning and usage of the term
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionBoreas. 2021, 50(1), 1-5. 10.1111/bor.12481
The Younger Dryas (YD) cold event was discovered in Denmark by Hartz and Mithers in 1904 and the term coined by Hartz in 1912. It was identified as a lacustrine clay bed containing plant macrofossils of an Arctic flora, including Dryas octopetala, and lying between Allerød and Holocene gyttjas containing a warmer flora with birch trees. The YD is unique in the sense that it is the largest and most abrupt climate change on Earth since the Last Glacial Maximum and thus within the reach of radiocarbon dating. Yet, I consider it is part of a regular Dansgaard-Oeschger event. The term has been used for a climate event and for lithostratigraphical, biostratigraphical and several other stratigraphical units. I prefer using it as a geochronological and chronostratigraphical unit, i.e. that the YD represents a specific period of geological time and the rocks and sediments formed during this period. In the type area of southern Scandinavia, the YD chron represents the age and duration of the cold event.