Article | Published:

Eight glacial cycles from an Antarctic ice core

Nature volume 429, pages 623628 (10 June 2004) | Download Citation

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Abstract

The Antarctic Vostok ice core provided compelling evidence of the nature of climate, and of climate feedbacks, over the past 420,000 years. Marine records suggest that the amplitude of climate variability was smaller before that time, but such records are often poorly resolved. Moreover, it is not possible to infer the abundance of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere from marine records. Here we report the recovery of a deep ice core from Dome C, Antarctica, that provides a climate record for the past 740,000 years. For the four most recent glacial cycles, the data agree well with the record from Vostok. The earlier period, between 740,000 and 430,000 years ago, was characterized by less pronounced warmth in interglacial periods in Antarctica, but a higher proportion of each cycle was spent in the warm mode. The transition from glacial to interglacial conditions about 430,000 years ago (Termination V) resembles the transition into the present interglacial period in terms of the magnitude of change in temperatures and greenhouse gases, but there are significant differences in the patterns of change. The interglacial stage following Termination V was exceptionally long—28,000 years compared to, for example, the 12,000 years recorded so far in the present interglacial period. Given the similarities between this earlier warm period and today, our results may imply that without human intervention, a climate similar to the present one would extend well into the future.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the logistics and drilling teams. This work is a contribution to the European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica (EPICA), a joint European Science Foundation/European Commission (EC) scientific programme, funded by the EC and by national contributions from Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK.

Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to E.W. (ewwo@bas.ac.uk).

Author information

Author notes

    • Mario Zucchelli

    (Deceased) ENEA, CRE Casaccia, PO Box 2400, Via Anguillarese 301, 00060 S. Maria di Galleria (RM), Italy.

Affiliations

  1. Laboratoire de Glaciologie et Géophysique de l'Environnement (CNRS), BP 96, 38402 St Martin d'Hères Cedex, France;

    • Laurent Augustin
    • , Jean Marc Barnola
    • , Jerome Chappellaz
    • , Barbara Delmonte
    • , Gael Durand
    • , Frederic Parrenin
    • , Jean-Robert Petit
    • , Dominique Raynaud
    • , Catherine Ritz
    •  & Jerome Weiss
  2. Environmental Sciences Department, University of Venice, Calle Larga S. Marta, 2137, I-30123 Venice, Italy;

    • Carlo Barbante
  3. British Antarctic Survey, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0ET, UK;

    • Piers R. F. Barnes
    • , Geneviève C. Littot
    • , Robert Mulvaney
    • , David A. Peel
    •  & Eric W. Wolff
  4. Climate and Environmental Physics, Physics Institute, University of Bern, Sidlerstrasse 5, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland;

    • Matthias Bigler
    • , Jacqueline Flückiger
    • , Patrik Kaufmann
    • , Fabrice Lambert
    • , Jakob Schwander
    • , Urs Siegenthaler
    • , Bernhard Stauffer
    •  & Thomas F. Stocker
  5. Department of Chemistry—Analytical Chemistry Section, Scientific Pole—University of Florence, Via della Lastruccia 3, 50019 Sesto Fiorentino (Florence), Italy;

    • Emiliano Castellano
    •  & Roberto Udisti
  6. Institut Pierre Simon Laplace/Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement, UMR CEA-CNRS 1572, CE Saclay, Orme des Merisiers, 91191 Gif-Sur-Yvette, France;

    • Olivier Cattani
    • , Gabrielle Dreyfus
    • , Sonia Falourd
    • , Jean Jouzel
    • , Valerie Masson-Delmotte
    •  & Frederic Parrenin
  7. Niels Bohr Institute for Astronomy, Physics and Geophysics, University of Copenhagen, Juliane Maries Vej 30, DK-2100 Copenhagen, Denmark;

    • Dorthe Dahl-Jensen
    • , Sigfus J. Johnsen
    •  & Jorgen Peder Steffensen
  8. University of Milano-Bicocca, Dipartimento di Scienze Ambiente e Territorio, Piazza della Scienza 1, I-20126 Milan, Italy;

    • Barbara Delmonte
    • , Valter Maggi
    •  & Giuseppe Orombelli
  9. Alfred-Wegener-Institute for Polar- und Marine Research (AWI), Postfach 120161, D-27515 Bremerhaven, Germany;

    • Hubertus Fischer
    • , Philippe Huybrechts
    • , Josef Kipfstuhl
    • , Heinz Miller
    • , Hans Oerter
    • , Urs Ruth
    •  & Frank Wilhelms
  10. Department of Physical Geography and Quaternary Geology, Stockholm University, S-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden;

    • Margareta E. Hansson
  11. Institut Polaire Français–Paul Emile Victor (IPEV), BP 75, 29280 Plouzane, France;

    • Gérard Jugie
  12. Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute, 38 Beringa Street, 199397 St Petersburg, Russia;

    • Vladimir Y. Lipenkov
  13. Department of Earth Sciences, University of Parma, Parco Area delle Scienze 157/A, I-43100 Parma, Italy;

    • Antonio Longinelli
  14. Département des Sciences de la Terre et de l'Environnement, Faculté des Sciences, CP 160/03, Université Libre de Bruxelles, 50 avenue FD Roosevelt, B1050 Brussels, Belgium;

    • Reginald Lorrain
    •  & Roland Souchez
  15. Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research Utrecht (IMAU), Princetonplein 5, 3584 CC Utrecht, The Netherlands;

    • Johannes Oerlemans
    • , Roderik S. W. van de Wal
    •  & Michiel van den Broeke
  16. Department of Geological, Environmental and Marine Sciences, University of Trieste, Via E. Weiss 2, I-34127 Trieste, Italy;

    • Barbara Stenni
  17. Earth Science Department, University of Milan, Via Cicognara 7, 20129 Milano, Italy;

    • Ignazio E. Tabacco
  18. Norwegian Polar Institute, N-9296 Tromsø, Norway;

    • Jan-Gunnar Winther

Consortia

  1. EPICA community members

    EPICA community members (participants are listed alphabetically)

Authors

    Competing interests

    The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests.

    Supplementary information

    Word documents

    1. 1.

      Supplementary Methods

      Gives the full detail of the derivation of the EDC2 timescale used in the paper.

    PDF files

    1. 1.

      Supplementary Figure 1

      Map showing the EPICA drilling sites along with the location of the previous deep Antarctic ice cores covering several glacial cycles. The grey areas are floating ice shelves.

    Excel files

    1. 1.

      Supplementary Data 1a

      This gives δD data against depth, as shown in Figure 1a of the main paper. Ages are also given, showing the age-depth relationship used.

    2. 2.

      Supplementary Data 1b

      This gives grain radius against depth, as shown in Figure 1b of the main paper.

    3. 3.

      Supplementary Data 1c

      This gives dust mass against depth, as shown in Figure 1c of the main paper.

    4. 4.

      Supplementary Data 1d

      This gives electrical data against depth, as shown in Fig 1d of the main paper.

    5. 5.

      Supplementary Data 2b

      This gives 3 kyr average δD values against age for the EDC core, as shown in Figure 2b of the main paper.

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    DOI

    https://doi.org/10.1038/nature02599

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