Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

10Be evidence for the Matuyama–Brunhes geomagnetic reversal in the EPICA Dome C ice core


An ice core drilled at Dome C, Antarctica, is the oldest ice core so far retrieved1. On the basis of ice flow modelling and a comparison between the deuterium signal in the ice with climate records from marine sediment cores, the ice at a depth of 3,190 m in the Dome C core is believed to have been deposited around 800,000 years ago2, offering a rare opportunity to study climatic and environmental conditions over this time period. However, an independent determination of this age is important because the deuterium profile below a depth of 3,190 m depth does not show the expected correlation with the marine record2. Here we present evidence for enhanced 10Be deposition in the ice at 3,160–3,170 m, which we interpret as a result of the low dipole field strength during the Matuyama–Brunhes geomagnetic reversal, which occurred about 780,000 years ago. If correct, this provides a crucial tie point between ice cores, marine cores and a radiometric timescale.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Prices vary by article type



Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Figure 1: 10 Be concentration, deuterium, 10 Be flux and median 10 Be flux (see text) in the EPICA Dome C ice core.
Figure 2: 10 Be flux in EPICA Dome C ice core, geomagnetic dipole intensity from stacked marine sediments 19 and predicted global 10 Be production rate.


  1. EPICA community members. Eight glacial cycles from an Antarctic ice core. Nature 429, 623–628 (2004)

  2. Jouzel, J. et al. Orbital and millennial Antarctic climate variability over the last 800,000 years. Geophys. Res. Abstr. 8, 02821 (2006)

    Google Scholar 

  3. Coe, R. S., Pringle, M. S. & Zhoe, X. Mauyama-Brunhes reversal and Kamikatsura event on Maui: paleomagnetic directions, 40Ar/39Ar ages and implications. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 222, 667–684 (2004)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Tauxe, L., Herbert, T., Shackleton, N. & Kok, Y. Astronomical calibration of the Matuyama-Brunhes boundary: consequences for magnetic remanence aquisition in marine carbonates and the Asian loess sequences. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 140, 133–146 (1996)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Quidelleur, X., Carlut, J., Solar, V., Valet, J. P. & Gillot, P-Y. The age and duration of the Matuyama-Brunhes transition from new K-Ar data from La Palma (Canary Islands) and revisited 40Ar/39Ar ages. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 208, 149–163 (2003)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. Hartl, P. & Tauxe, L. A precursor to the Matuyama/Brunhes transition-field instability as recorded in pelagic sediments. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 138, 121–135 (1996)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Brown, L. L., Singer, B. S., Pickens, J. & Jicha, B. R. Paleomagnetic directions and 40Ar/39Ar ages from the Tatara-San Pedro volcanic complex, Chilean Andes: lava record of a Matuyama-Brunhes precursor?. J. Geophys. Res. 109 doi: 1029/2004JB003007 (2004)

  8. Singer, B. S. et al. Structural and temporal requirements for geomagnetic field reversal deduced from lava flows. Nature 434, 633–636 (2005)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. Merrill, R. T. & McFadden, P. L. Geomagnetic polarity transitions. Rev. Geophys. 37, 201–226 (1999)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  10. Lal, D. & Peters, B. in Handbuch der Physik (ed. Sitte, K.) 551–612 (Springer, New York, 1967)

  11. Raisbeck, G. M., Yiou, F., Bourles, D. & Kent, D. V. Evidence for an increase in cosmogenic 10Be during a geomagnetic reversal. Nature 315, 315–317 (1985)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. Steig, E. J., Polissar, P. J., Stuiver, M., Grootes, P. M. & Finkel, R. C. Large amplitude solar modulation cycles of 10Be in Antarctica: implications for atmospheric mixing processes and interpretation of the ice core record. Geophys. Res. Lett. 23, 523–526 (1996)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  13. Raisbeck, G. M. et al. Evidence for two intervals of enhanced 10Be deposition in Antarctic ice during the last glacial period. Nature 326, 273–277 (1987)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  14. Raisbeck, G. M. et al. in Absolute and Radiocarbon Chronologies (eds Bard, E. & Broecker, W. S.) 127–139 (Springer, Berlin, 1992)

  15. Yiou, F. et al. Beryllium 10 in the Greenland Ice Core Project ice core at Summit Greenland. J. Geophys. Res. 102, 26783–26794 (1997)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  16. Field, C. V., Schmidt, G. A., Koch, D. & Salyk, C. J. Modeling production and climate-related impacts on 10Be concentration in ice cores. J. Geophys. Res. 111 doi: 10.1029/2005JD006410 (2006)

  17. Yiou, F., Raisbeck, G. M., Bourles, D., Lorius, C. & Barkov, N. I. 10Be in ice at Vostok Antarctica during the last climatic cycle. Nature 316, 616–617 (1985)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  18. Durand, G. Microstructure, Recrystallation et Déformation des Glaces Polaires de la Carotte EPICA, Dôme Concordia, Antarctique. PhD thesis, Université Joseph Fournier, Grenoble. (2004)

  19. Guyodo, Y. & Valet, J. P. Global changes in intensity of the Earth’s magnetic field during the past 800 kyr. Nature 399, 249–252 (1999)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  20. Bassinot, F. C. et al. The astronomical theory of climate and the age of the Brunhes-Matuyama magnetic reversal. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 126, 91–108 (1994)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  21. Channel, J. E. T. & Kleiven, H. F. Geomagnetic paleointensities and astrochronological ages for the Matuyama-Brunhes boundary and the boundaries of the Jaramillo Subchron: paleomagnetic records and oxygen isotope records from ODP site 983. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B 358, 1027–1047 (2000)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  22. Horng, C. S., Palike, H., Wei, K. Y., Liang, W. T. & Torii, M. Astronomically calibrated ages for the geomagnetic reversals with the Matuyama chron. Earth Planets Space 54, 679–690 (2002)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  23. Langereis, C. G., de Lange, G. J., Paterne, M. & van Santvoort, P. M. J. Magnetostratigraphy and astronomical calibration of the last 1.1 Myr from an eastern Mediterranean piston core and dating of short events in the Brunhes. Geophys. J. Int. 129, 75–94 (1997)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  24. Wagner, G. et al. Reconstruction of the geomagnetic field between 20 and 60 kyr BP from cosmogenic radionuclides in the GRIP ice core. Nucl. Instrum. Meth. B 172, 597–604 (2000)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references


We thank S. Jacob, G. Aumaitre, J. Lestringuez, S. Falourd and V. Masson-Delmotte for help with experimental measurements, F. Parrenin for the age and accumulation estimates, and K. Krogh-Andersen for suggesting the use of medians to eliminate the effect of the 10Be spikes. Tandetron operation is supported by the IN2P3 and INSU divisions of the CNRS. 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. The main logistic support was provided by IPEV and PNRA.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to G. M. Raisbeck.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

Reprints and permissions information is available at The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Raisbeck, G., Yiou, F., Cattani, O. et al. 10Be evidence for the Matuyama–Brunhes geomagnetic reversal in the EPICA Dome C ice core. Nature 444, 82–84 (2006).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing