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

Abstract

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.

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Figure 1: The deuterium record.
Figure 3: Vostok time series and insolation.
Figure 2: Vostok time series and ice volume.
Figure 4: Spectral properties of the Vostok time series.
Figure 5: Vostok time series during glacial terminations.

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Acknowledgements

This work is part of a joint project between Russia, France and USA. We thank the drillers from the St Petersburg Mining Institute; the Russian, French and US participants for field work and ice sampling; and the Russian Antarctic Expeditions (RAE), the Institut Français de Recherches et Technologies Polaires (IFRTP) and the Division of Polar Programs (NSF) for the logistic support. The project is supported in Russia by the Russian Ministry of Sciences, in France by PNEDC (Programme National d'Études de la Dynamique du Climat), by Fondation de France and by the CEC (Commission of European Communities) Environment Programme, and in the US by the NSF Science Foundation.

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Correspondence to J. R. Petit.

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Petit, J., Jouzel, J., Raynaud, D. et al. Climate and atmospheric history of the past 420,000 years from the Vostok ice core, Antarctica. Nature 399, 429–436 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1038/20859

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