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Northern Hemisphere forcing of climatic cycles in Antarctica over the past 360,000 years


The Milankovitch theory of climate change proposes that glacial–interglacial cycles are driven by changes in summer insolation at high northern latitudes1. The timing of climate change in the Southern Hemisphere at glacial–interglacial transitions (which are known as terminations) relative to variations in summer insolation in the Northern Hemisphere is an important test of this hypothesis. So far, it has only been possible to apply this test to the most recent termination2,3, because the dating uncertainty associated with older terminations is too large to allow phase relationships to be determined. Here we present a new chronology of Antarctic climate change over the past 360,000 years that is based on the ratio of oxygen to nitrogen molecules in air trapped in the Dome Fuji and Vostok ice cores4,5. This ratio is a proxy for local summer insolation5, and thus allows the chronology to be constructed by orbital tuning without the need to assume a lag between a climate record and an orbital parameter. The accuracy of the chronology allows us to examine the phase relationships between climate records from the ice cores6,7,8,9 and changes in insolation. Our results indicate that orbital-scale Antarctic climate change lags Northern Hemisphere insolation by a few millennia, and that the increases in Antarctic temperature and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration during the last four terminations occurred within the rising phase of Northern Hemisphere summer insolation. These results support the Milankovitch theory that Northern Hemisphere summer insolation triggered the last four deglaciations3,10,11.

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Figure 1: Orbital tuning of the Dome Fuji and Vostok timescales using O 2 /N 2 records.
Figure 2: Comparison of Dome Fuji climatic and atmospheric records with insolation and sea level records.
Figure 3: Power spectra of δ 18 O and Δ T site records calculated by the Blackman–Tukey method with 50% lags.
Figure 4: Comparison of Antarctic parameters with insolation and obliquity around the last four terminations.


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We thank the Dome Fuji field members for careful drilling and handling of the core, and M. Bender, M. Suwa, R. Alley, P. Huybers, A. Abe-Ouchi, M. Yoshimori, N. Azuma, R. Keeling, Y. Yokoyama, P. Clark, J. Flückiger and W. Ruddiman for discussion and comments.We acknowledge support by a Grant-in-Aid for Creative Scientific Research (to T.N.) and a Grant-in-Aid for Young Scientists (to K.K.) from the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture, Japan. The Gary Comer Abrupt Climate Change Fellowship and J.P.S. partially supported K.K. during data analysis and writing. M.E.R. acknowledges the support of the US NSF.

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Correspondence to Kenji Kawamura.

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

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

This file contains Supplementary Notes, Supplementary Tables S1-S3, Supplementary Figures S1-S5 with Legends and additional references. (PDF 838 kb)

Supplementary Data 1

This file contains Supplementary Data 1 illustrating depth-age relationship for the DFO-2006 timescale of the Dome Fuji ice core, 0-2504m. (XLS 124 kb)

Supplementary Data 2

This file contains Supplementary Data 2 illustrating delta-18O and delta-Tsite data of the Dome Fuji ice core for 0-340 kyr b2k on the DFO-2006 timescale, resampled at 250-500 yr intervals. (XLS 424 kb)

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Kawamura, K., Parrenin, F., Lisiecki, L. et al. Northern Hemisphere forcing of climatic cycles in Antarctica over the past 360,000 years. Nature 448, 912–916 (2007).

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