Letter

Nature 453, 379-382 (15 May 2008) | doi:10.1038/nature06949; Received 12 October 2007; Accepted 17 March 2008

High-resolution carbon dioxide concentration record 650,000–800,000 years before present

Dieter Lüthi1, Martine Le Floch2, Bernhard Bereiter1, Thomas Blunier1,5, Jean-Marc Barnola2, Urs Siegenthaler1, Dominique Raynaud2, Jean Jouzel3, Hubertus Fischer4, Kenji Kawamura1,5 & Thomas F. Stocker1

  1. Climate and Environmental Physics, Physics Institute, University of Bern, Sidlerstrasse 5, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland, and Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Bern, Erlachstrasse 9a, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland
  2. Laboratoire de Glaciologie et Géophysique de l'Environnement (LGGE), CNRS-Université Joseph Fourier Grenoble, 54 Rue Molière, 38402 St Martin d'Hères, France
  3. Institut Pierre Simon Laplace/Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement, CEA-CNRS-University Versailles-Saint Quentin, CE Saclay, Orme des Merisiers, 91191 Gif-sur-Yvette, France
  4. Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), Columbusstrasse, D-27568 Bremerhaven, Germany
  5. Present addresses: Centre for Ice and Climate, Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, Juliane Maries Vej 30, DK-2100 Copenhagen OE, Denmark (T.B.); National Institute of Polar Research, Research Organization of Information and Systems, 1-9-10 Kaga, Itabashi-ku, Tokyo 173-8515, Japan (K.K.).

Correspondence to: Dieter Lüthi1 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to D.L. (Email: luethi@climate.unibe.ch).

Changes in past atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations can be determined by measuring the composition of air trapped in ice cores from Antarctica. So far, the Antarctic Vostok and EPICA Dome C ice cores have provided a composite record of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels over the past 650,000 years1, 2, 3, 4. Here we present results of the lowest 200 m of the Dome C ice core, extending the record of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration by two complete glacial cycles to 800,000 yr before present. From previously published data1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and the present work, we find that atmospheric carbon dioxide is strongly correlated with Antarctic temperature throughout eight glacial cycles but with significantly lower concentrations between 650,000 and 750,000 yr before present. Carbon dioxide levels are below 180 parts per million by volume (p.p.m.v.) for a period of 3,000 yr during Marine Isotope Stage 16, possibly reflecting more pronounced oceanic carbon storage. We report the lowest carbon dioxide concentration measured in an ice core, which extends the pre-industrial range of carbon dioxide concentrations during the late Quaternary by about 10 p.p.m.v. to 172–300 p.p.m.v.

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