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One-to-one coupling of glacial climate variability in Greenland and Antarctica


Precise knowledge of the phase relationship between climate changes in the two hemispheres is a key for understanding the Earth’s climate dynamics. For the last glacial period, ice core studies1,2 have revealed strong coupling of the largest millennial-scale warm events in Antarctica with the longest Dansgaard–Oeschger events in Greenland3,4,5 through the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation6,7,8. It has been unclear, however, whether the shorter Dansgaard–Oeschger events have counterparts in the shorter and less prominent Antarctic temperature variations, and whether these events are linked by the same mechanism. Here we present a glacial climate record derived from an ice core from Dronning Maud Land, Antarctica, which represents South Atlantic climate at a resolution comparable with the Greenland ice core records. After methane synchronization with an ice core from North Greenland9, the oxygen isotope record from the Dronning Maud Land ice core shows a one-to-one coupling between all Antarctic warm events and Greenland Dansgaard–Oeschger events by the bipolar seesaw6. The amplitude of the Antarctic warm events is found to be linearly dependent on the duration of the concurrent stadial in the North, suggesting that they all result from a similar reduction in the meridional overturning circulation.

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Figure 1: Antarctic stable isotope records show synchronous millennial variations during the last glacial, whereas rapid variations are encountered in Greenland.
Figure 2: Methane synchronization of the EDML and the NGRIP records reveals a one‐to‐one assignment of each Antarctic warming with a corresponding stadial in Greenland.
Figure 3: Amplitudes of Antarctic warmings show a linear relationship ( r 2  = 0.85) with the duration of the accompanying stadial in Greenland during MIS3.


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This work is a contribution to the European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica (EPICA), a joint European Science Foundation/European Commission scientific programme, funded by the EU (EPICA-MIS) 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 (at Dome C) and AWI (at Dronning Maud Land).

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Correspondence to H. Fischer.

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Supplementary Notes

This file provides details on the new EDC3/EDML1 age scale, on the CH4 synchronization of EDML and NGRIP, on systematic effects in δ18O which have been corrected for at EDML as well as how temperatures and accumulation rates have been derived from δ18O at EDML. Includes supplementary figures S1 (map of Antarctica indicating drill sites), S2 (details on CH4 synchronization uncertainty) and S3 (correction of EDML δ18O record). (PDF 292 kb)

Supplementary Table 1

δ18O record from Dronning Maud Land in 0.5 m resolution. For the upper 125 m δ18O data in 1 m resolution from the shallow ice core DML05 (drilled 2 km away from the deep drilling site) has been added after splicing the two records unambiguously using pronounced volcanic horizons. The table lists the measured δ18O values over depth and the respective age according to the EDML1/EDC3 age scale together with δ18O values after correcting for the sea level effect and after sea level plus upstream correction. (XLS 685 kb)

Supplementary Table 2

EDML δ18O record in 100 yr resolution on the GICC05 age scale in the time window 10-51 kyr BP after CH4 synchronization as used in Figure 2. Listed are the measured δ18O data vs. GICC05 age, the sea level corrected δ18O data and the sea level plus upstream corrected δ18O values. (XLS 47 kb)

Supplementary Table 3

EDML CH4 data after matching to the Greenland CH4 composite. Listed are the measured CH4 concentrations vs. depth and the respective GICC05 age. (XLS 36 kb)

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EPICA Community Members. One-to-one coupling of glacial climate variability in Greenland and Antarctica. Nature 444, 195–198 (2006).

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