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Asynchrony of Antarctic and Greenland climate change during the last glacial period


A central issue in climate dynamics is to understand how the Northern and Southern hemispheres are coupled during climate events. The strongest of the fast temperature changes observed in Greenland (so-called Dansgaard–Oeschger events) during the last glaciation have an analogue in the temperature record from Antarctica. A comparison of the global atmospheric concentration of methane as recorded in ice cores from Antarctica and Greenland permits a determination of the phase relationship (in leads or lags) of these temperature variations. Greenland warming events around 36 and 45 kyr before present lag their Antarctic counterpart by more than 1 kyr. On average, Antarctic climate change leads that of Greenland by 1–2.5 kyr over the period 47–23 kyr before present.

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Figure 1: 10Be fluxes from Byrd32, Vostok33 and GRIP31 ice cores.
Figure 2: GRIP1, Byrd15 and Vostok16 isotopic and CH4 records on the common timescale (GRIP timescale in years before 1989).
Figure 3: Plot of Δage versus ice age.


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This work, in the frame of the Greenland Ice Core Project (GRIP), was supported by the University of Bern, the Swiss National Science Foundation, the Federal Department of Energy (BFE), the Schwerpunktprogramm Umwelt (SPPU) of the Swiss National Science Foundation, the EC program “Environment and Climate 1994–1998”, the Fondation de France and the Programm National de Dynamique du Climat of CNRS. We thank F. Finet for the CH4 measurements on Vostok and part of GRIP, C. Rado and J. R. Petit for ice sampling at Vostok station, C. C. Langway for providing us with additional Byrd samples and F. Yiou, G. Raisbeck and J. Beer for the 10Be data.

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Correspondence to T. Blunier.

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Blunier, T., Chappellaz, J., Schwander, J. et al. Asynchrony of Antarctic and Greenland climate change during the last glacial period. Nature 394, 739–743 (1998).

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