High-resolution record of Northern Hemisphere climate extending into the last interglacial period


Two deep ice cores from central Greenland, drilled in the 1990s, have played a key role in climate reconstructions of the Northern Hemisphere, but the oldest sections of the cores were disturbed in chronology owing to ice folding near the bedrock. Here we present an undisturbed climate record from a North Greenland ice core, which extends back to 123,000 years before the present, within the last interglacial period. The oxygen isotopes in the ice imply that climate was stable during the last interglacial period, with temperatures 5 °C warmer than today. We find unexpectedly large temperature differences between our new record from northern Greenland and the undisturbed sections of the cores from central Greenland, suggesting that the extent of ice in the Northern Hemisphere modulated the latitudinal temperature gradients in Greenland. This record shows a slow decline in temperatures that marked the initiation of the last glacial period. Our record reveals a hitherto unrecognized warm period initiated by an abrupt climate warming about 115,000 years ago, before glacial conditions were fully developed. This event does not appear to have an immediate Antarctic counterpart, suggesting that the climate see-saw between the hemispheres (which dominated the last glacial period) was not operating at this time.

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Figure 1: Map of Greenland, showing the locations of the deep ice core drilling sites.
Figure 2: The NGRIP stable oxygen isotopic record compared to the GRIP record.
Figure 3: Comparison of ice core records from NGRIP and Vostok for NGRIP depths 2,830 to 3,085 m.
Figure 4: The NGRIP isotopic profile from the Supplementary Information (a) compared with the planktonic isotopes in the Iberian margin sediment core MD95-202429 (b).


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NGRIP is directed and organized by the Department of Geophysics at the Niels Bohr Institute for Astronomy, Physics and Geophysics, University of Copenhagen. It is supported by funding agencies in Denmark (SNF), Belgium (FNRS-CFB), France (IPEV and INSU/CNRS), Germany (AWI), Iceland (RannIs), Japan (MEXT), Sweden (SPRS), Switzerland (SNF) and the USA (NSF, Office of Polar Programs).

Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to D.D.-J. (ddj@gfy.ku.dk) or S.J.J. (sigfus@gfy.ku.dk).

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

In this file we list the NGRIP oxygen 18 values as 50 year mean values using the same preliminary age scale as in Figure 2c of the accompanying paper. (XLS 270 kb)

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Andersen, K., Azuma, N., Barnola, J. et al. High-resolution record of Northern Hemisphere climate extending into the last interglacial period. Nature 431, 147–151 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature02805

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