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Regional insolation forcing of late Quaternary climate change in the Southern Hemisphere


In agreement with the Milankovitch orbital forcing hypothesis1 it is often assumed that glacial–interglacial climate transitions occurred synchronously in the Northern and Southern hemispheres of the Earth. It is difficult to test this assumption, because of the paucity of long, continuous climate records from the Southern Hemisphere that have not been dated by tuning them to the presumed Northern Hemisphere signals2. Here we present an independently dated terrestrial pollen record from a peat bog on South Island, New Zealand, to investigate global and local factors in Southern Hemisphere climate changes during the last two glacial–interglacial cycles. Our record largely corroborates the Milankovitch model of orbital forcing but also exhibits some differences: in particular, an earlier onset and longer duration of the Last Glacial Maximum. Our results suggest that Southern Hemisphere insolation may have been responsible for these differences in timing. Our findings question the validity of applying orbital tuning to Southern Hemisphere records and suggest an alternative mechanism to the bipolar seesaw for generating interhemispheric asynchrony in climate change.

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Figure 1: Condensed pollen diagram from Okarito Pakihi.
Figure 2: Comparison of Okarito pollen and other records of climate change with summer insolation variation curves for the past 160,000 yr.


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We thank M. McGlone, P. Almond, P. Suggate, N. Roberts and D. Charman for discussion on the manuscript. We thank M.-F. Loutre for providing the insolation values used in Fig. 2 and P. Almond for tephra identification. We acknowledge the support of A. Hilgers and U. Radtke and the luminescence dating facilities of the Geographisches Institut, Universität zu Köln, Germany, and the South Westland Department of Conservation, New Zealand. This research is supported by the Natural Environmental Research Council, the Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden Fund, the Royal Society (UK), the Swiss Nationalfonds, and the University of Otago Research Grants Committee.

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Correspondence to Marcus J. Vandergoes.

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Supplementary Notes

This contains Supplementary Figures S1-S4, Supplementary Methods and Data, Supplementary References, and Supplementary Tables S1-S3. (DOC 4399 kb)

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Vandergoes, M., Newnham, R., Preusser, F. et al. Regional insolation forcing of late Quaternary climate change in the Southern Hemisphere. Nature 436, 242–245 (2005).

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