Letter | Published:

Frequency sensitivity of the deep-sea climatic record

Abstract

Attempts to explain quasiperiodic glacial/interglacial transitions1 in the Pleistocene 18O deep-sea stratigraphic record have focused on spectral analysis of palaeoclimatic data and comparisons with Milankovitch-type calculations of variations in isolation caused by periodicities of the Earth's orbit around the Sun2–6. Periods close to those of orbital eccentricity (100 kyr), obliquity (41 kyr), and precession (22 kyr) can be identified in deep-sea cores, but their relative strengths are very different from those of solar insolation and other peaks are also present. Mixing of sediment by deposit-feeding infauna significantly perturbs stratigraphic boundaries in deep-ocean sediments7. Although mixing models8–11 have been proposed to describe quantitative effects of bioturbation no formulation of the effect of this process on the spectrum of the climatic record has been presented. Using the signal processing model11, the suppression of recorded climatic variation over the past 700 kyr is estimated. In the frequency range where changes in the Earth's orbital path affect incident solar radiation the results support an appreciably larger role for astronomical ‘forcing’ of climate than previously estimated.

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