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Precise dating of Dansgaard–Oeschger climate oscillations in western Europe from stalagmite data


The signature of Dansgaard–Oeschger events—millennial-scale abrupt climate oscillations during the last glacial period—is well established in ice cores and marine records1,2,3. But the effects of such events in continental settings are not as clear, and their absolute chronology is uncertain beyond the limit of 14C dating and annual layer counting for marine records and ice cores, respectively. Here we present carbon and oxygen isotope records from a stalagmite collected in southwest France which have been precisely dated using 234U/230Th ratios. We find rapid climate oscillations coincident with the established Dansgaard–Oeschger events between 83,000 and 32,000 years ago in both isotope records. The oxygen isotope signature is similar to a record from Soreq cave, Israel4, and deep-sea records5,6, indicating the large spatial scale of the climate oscillations. The signal in the carbon isotopes gives evidence of drastic and rapid vegetation changes in western Europe, an important site in human cultural evolution. We also find evidence for a long phase of extremely cold climate in southwest France between 61.2 ± 0.6 and 67.4 ± 0.9 kyr ago.

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Figure 1: Map showing locations of the study sites.
Figure 2: Comparison of the Vil9 stalagmite carbon isotope profile with Greenland ice core records and other stalagmite records.
Figure 3: Vil9 δ13C record compared with the percentage of Neoglobigerina pachyderma of the marine core DSDP 6095, and with planktonic foraminifera δ18O of core MD95-2042 (southwest Portugal)6.
Figure 4: Comparison of the Vil9 δ18O record with the Soreq cave δ18O record4, benthic foraminifera δ18O of marine core MD95-20426, and SPECMAP δ18O normalized record with MIS numbers.


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We thank H. Versaveau and Th. Baritaud for help in sampling, and C. Waelbroeck, U. von Grafenstein, G. Hoffmann, D. Joly and M. F. Diot for discussions. This work was supported by NERC, CNRS–INSU (VariEnTe, Eclipse, PNEDC) and the CEA.

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Genty, D., Blamart, D., Ouahdi, R. et al. Precise dating of Dansgaard–Oeschger climate oscillations in western Europe from stalagmite data. Nature 421, 833–837 (2003).

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