Nature 399, 429-436 (3 June 1999) | doi:10.1038/20859; Received 20 January 1999; Accepted 14 April 1999

Climate and atmospheric history of the past 420,000 years from the Vostok ice core, Antarctica

J. R. Petit1, J. Jouzel2, D. Raynaud1, N. I. Barkov3, J.-M. Barnola1, I. Basile1, M. Bender4, J. Chappellaz1, M. Davis5, G. Delaygue2, M. Delmotte1, V. M. Kotlyakov6, M. Legrand1, V. Y. Lipenkov3, C. Lorius1, L. PÉpin1,1, C. Ritz1, E. Saltzman5 & M. Stievenard2

  1. Laboratoire de Glaciologie et Géophysique de l'Environnement, CNRS, BP96, 38402, Saint Martin d'Hères Cedex, France
  2. Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement (UMR CEA/CNRS 1572), L'Orme des Merisiers, Bât. 709, CEA Saclay, 91191 Gif-sur-Yvette Cedex, France
  3. Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute, Beringa Street 38, 199397, St Petersburg, Russia
  4. Department of Geosciences, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey 08544-1003, USA
  5. Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, 4600 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, Florida 33149, USA
  6. Institute of Geography, Staromonetny, per 29, 109017, Moscow, Russia

Correspondence to: J. R. Petit1 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to J.R.P. (e-mail: Email:


The recent completion of drilling at Vostok station in East Antarctica has allowed the extension of the ice record of atmospheric composition and climate to the past four glacial–interglacial cycles. The succession of changes through each climate cycle and termination was similar, and atmospheric and climate properties oscillated between stable bounds. Interglacial periods differed in temporal evolution and duration. Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane correlate well with Antarctic air-temperature throughout the record. Present-day atmospheric burdens of these two important greenhouse gases seem to have been unprecedented during the past 420,000 years.