In climatology, the 8.2 kiloyear event was a sudden decrease in global temperatures that occurred approximately 8,200 years before the present, or c. 6,200 BCE, and which lasted for the next two to four centuries. Milder than the Younger Dryas cold spell that preceded it, but more severe than the Little Ice Age that would follow, the 8.2 kiloyear cooling was a significant exception to general trends of the Holocene climatic optimum. During the event, atmospheric methane concentration decreased by 80 ppb or an emission reduction of 15%, by cooling and drying at a hemispheric scale.
A rapid cooling around 6200 BCE was first identified by Swiss botanist Heinrich Zoller in 1960, who named the event Misox oscillation (for the Val Mesolcina). It is also known as Finse event in Norway. Bond et al. argued that the origin of the 8.2 kiloyear event is linked to a 1,500-year climate cycle; it correlates with Bond event 5.
The strongest evidence for the event comes from the North Atlantic region; the disruption in climate shows clearly in Greenland ice cores and in sedimentary and other records of the temperate and tropical North Atlantic. It is less evident in ice cores from Antarctica and in South American indices. The effects of the cold snap were global, however, most notably in changes in sea level during the relevant era.
The 8.2 kiloyear cooling event may have been caused by a large meltwater pulse from the final collapse of the Laurentide ice sheet of northeastern North America, most likely when the glacial lakes Ojibway and Agassiz suddenly drained into the North Atlantic Ocean. The same type of action produced the Missoula floods that created the Channeled scablands of the Columbia River basin. The melt-water pulse may have affected the North Atlantic thermohaline circulation, reducing northward heat transport in the Atlantic and causing significant circum-North Atlantic cooling. Estimates of the cooling vary and depend somewhat on the interpretation of the proxy data, but drops of around 1 to 5 °C (1.8 to 9.0 °F) have been reported. In Greenland, the event started at 8175 BP, and the cooling was 3.3 °C (decadal average) in less than 20 years. The coldest period lasted for about 60 years, while the total duration was about 150 years. The melt-water causation theory is, however, thrown in to speculation due to inconstancies with its onset and an unknown region of impact. Researchers suggest the discharge was probably superimposed upon a longer episode of cooler climate lasting up to 600 years, and merely one contributing factor to the event as a whole.
Further afield, some tropical records report a 3 °C (5.4 °F) cooling from cores drilled into an ancient coral reef in Indonesia. The event also caused a global CO2 decline of ≈25 ppm over ≈300 years. However, dating and interpretation other tropical sites are more ambiguous than the North Atlantic sites. In addition, climate modeling work shows that not only the amount of meltwater, but also the pathway of meltwater is important in perturbing the North Atlantic thermohaline circulation.
Drier conditions were notable in North Africa while East Africa suffered five centuries of general drought. In West Asia and especially Mesopotamia, the 8.2 kiloyear event was a 300-year aridification and cooling episode, which may have provided the natural force for Mesopotamian irrigation agriculture and surplus production that were essential for the earliest class-formation and urban life. However, multi-centennial changes around the same period are difficult to link specifically to the approximately 100-year abrupt event as recorded most clearly in the Greenland ice cores.
The initial meltwater pulse caused between 0.5 and 4 m (1 ft 8 in and 13 ft 1 in) of sea-level rise. Based on estimates of lake volume and decaying ice cap size, values of 0.4–1.2 m (1 ft 4 in–3 ft 11 in) circulate. Based on sea-level data from the Mississippi Delta, the very final stage of the Lake Agassiz–Ojibway (LAO) drainage occurred at 8.31 to 8.18 ka and ranges from 0.8 to 2.2 m. The sea-level data from the Rhine–Meuse Delta indicate a 2–4 m (6 ft 7 in–13 ft 1 in) of near-instantaneous rise at 8.54–8.2 ka, in addition to 'normal' post-glacial sea-level rise. Meltwater pulse sea-level rise was experienced fully at great distance from the release area. Gravity and rebound effects associated with the shifting of water masses meant that the sea-level fingerprint was smaller in areas closer to the Hudson Bay. The Mississippi delta records ≈20%, northwest Europe records ≈70% and Asia records ≈105% of the globally averaged amount. The cooling of the 8.2 kiloyear event was a temporary feature; however, the sea-level rise of the meltwater pulse was permanent.
In 2003, the Office of Net Assessment (ONA) at the United States Department of Defense was commissioned to produce a study on the likely and potential effects of a modern climate change. The study, conducted under ONA head Andrew Marshall, modeled its prospective climate change on the 8.2 kiloyear event, precisely because it was the middle alternative between the Younger Dryas and the milder Little Ice Age.