Nature 448, 912-916 (23 August 2007) | doi:10.1038/nature06015; Received 14 April 2007; Accepted 12 June 2007

Northern Hemisphere forcing of climatic cycles in Antarctica over the past 360,000 years

Kenji Kawamura1,2,9, Frédéric Parrenin3, Lorraine Lisiecki4, Ryu Uemura5, Françoise Vimeux6,7, Jeffrey P. Severinghaus2, Manuel A. Hutterli8, Takakiyo Nakazawa1, Shuji Aoki1, Jean Jouzel7, Maureen E. Raymo4, Koji Matsumoto1,9, Hisakazu Nakata1,9, Hideaki Motoyama5, Shuji Fujita5, Kumiko Goto-Azuma5, Yoshiyuki Fujii5 & Okitsugu Watanabe5

  1. Center for Atmospheric and Oceanic Studies, Graduate School of Science, Tohoku University, Sendai 980-8578, Japan
  2. Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, California 92093-0244, USA
  3. Laboratoire de Glaciologie et Geophysique de l'Environnement, CNRS/UJF, 54 rue Molière, 38400 Grenoble, France
  4. Department of Earth Sciences, Boston University, 685 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA
  5. National Institute of Polar Research, Research Organization of Information and Systems, 1-9-10 Kaga, Itabashi-ku, Tokyo 173-8515, Japan
  6. Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), UR Great Ice
  7. IPSL/LSCE, Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement, UMR CEA-CNRS-UVSQ, CE Saclay, Orme des Merisiers, 91191 Gif-sur-Yvette, France
  8. British Antarctic Survey, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0ET, UK
  9. Present addresses: National Institute of Polar Research, Research Organization of Information and Systems, 1-9-10 Kaga, Itabashi-ku, Tokyo 173-8515, Japan (K.K.); Japan Meteorological Agency, 1-3-4 Otemachi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8122, Japan (K.M.); Japan Atomic Energy Agency, Tokai-mura, Ibaraki 319-1195, Japan (H.N.).

Correspondence to: Kenji Kawamura1,2,9 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to K.K. (Email: kawamura@nipr.ac.jp).

The Milankovitch theory of climate change proposes that glacial–interglacial cycles are driven by changes in summer insolation at high northern latitudes1. The timing of climate change in the Southern Hemisphere at glacial–interglacial transitions (which are known as terminations) relative to variations in summer insolation in the Northern Hemisphere is an important test of this hypothesis. So far, it has only been possible to apply this test to the most recent termination2, 3, because the dating uncertainty associated with older terminations is too large to allow phase relationships to be determined. Here we present a new chronology of Antarctic climate change over the past 360,000 years that is based on the ratio of oxygen to nitrogen molecules in air trapped in the Dome Fuji and Vostok ice cores4, 5. This ratio is a proxy for local summer insolation5, and thus allows the chronology to be constructed by orbital tuning without the need to assume a lag between a climate record and an orbital parameter. The accuracy of the chronology allows us to examine the phase relationships between climate records from the ice cores6, 7, 8, 9 and changes in insolation. Our results indicate that orbital-scale Antarctic climate change lags Northern Hemisphere insolation by a few millennia, and that the increases in Antarctic temperature and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration during the last four terminations occurred within the rising phase of Northern Hemisphere summer insolation. These results support the Milankovitch theory that Northern Hemisphere summer insolation triggered the last four deglaciations3, 10, 11.


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