Letter | Published:

Onset of deglacial warming in West Antarctica driven by local orbital forcing

Nature volume 500, pages 440444 (22 August 2013) | Download Citation

Abstract

The cause of warming in the Southern Hemisphere during the most recent deglaciation remains a matter of debate1,2. Hypotheses for a Northern Hemisphere trigger, through oceanic redistributions of heat, are based in part on the abrupt onset of warming seen in East Antarctic ice cores and dated to 18,000 years ago, which is several thousand years after high-latitude Northern Hemisphere summer insolation intensity began increasing from its minimum, approximately 24,000 years ago3,4. An alternative explanation is that local solar insolation changes cause the Southern Hemisphere to warm independently2,5. Here we present results from a new, annually resolved ice-core record from West Antarctica that reconciles these two views. The records show that 18,000 years ago snow accumulation in West Antarctica began increasing, coincident with increasing carbon dioxide concentrations, warming in East Antarctica and cooling in the Northern Hemisphere6 associated with an abrupt decrease in Atlantic meridional overturning circulation7. However, significant warming in West Antarctica began at least 2,000 years earlier. Circum-Antarctic sea-ice decline, driven by increasing local insolation, is the likely cause of this warming. The marine-influenced West Antarctic records suggest a more active role for the Southern Ocean in the onset of deglaciation than is inferred from ice cores in the East Antarctic interior, which are largely isolated from sea-ice changes.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by US National Science Foundation (NSF). The authors appreciate the support of the WAIS Divide Science Coordination Office (M. Twickler and J. Souney) for the collection and distribution of the WAIS Divide ice core; Ice Drilling and Design and Operations (K. Dahnert) for drilling; the National Ice Core Laboratory (B. Bencivengo) for curating the core; Raytheon Polar Services (M. Kippenhan) for logistics support in Antarctica; and the 109th New York Air National Guard for airlift in Antarctica. We also thank C. Buizert and S. Marcott for discussions. The following individual NSF grants supported this work: 0944197 (E.D.W., H. Conway); 1043092, 0537930 (E.J.S.); 0944348, 0944191, 0440817, 0440819, 0230396 (K.C.T.); 0538427, 0839093 (J.R.M.); 1043518 (E.J.B.); 1043500 (T.S.); 05379853, 1043167 (J.W.C.W.); 1043528, 0539578 (R.B.A.); 0539232 (K.M.C., G.D.C.); 1103403 (R.L.E., H. Conway); 0739780 (R.E.); 0637211 (G.H.); 0538553, 0839066 (J.C.-D.), 0538657, 1043421 (J.P.S.); 1043313 (M.K.S.); 0801490 (G.J.W). Other support came from a NASA NESSF award (T.J.F.), the USGS Climate and Land Use Change Program (G.D.C., J.J.F.), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41230524 to H. Cheng) and the Singapore National Research Foundation (NRFF2011-08 to X.W.).

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Affiliations for participants:

  2. Department of Earth and Space Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195, USA.

    • T. J. Fudge
    • , Eric J. Steig
    • , Bradley R. Markle
    • , Spruce W. Schoenemann
    • , Qinghua Ding
    • , Howard Conway
    • , Peter Neff
    • , Andrew J. Schauer
    •  & Edwin D. Waddington
  3. Quaternary Research Center, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195, USA.

    • Eric J. Steig
    •  & Qinghua Ding
  4. Desert Research Institute, Nevada System of Higher Education, Reno, Nevada 89512, USA.

    • Kendrick C. Taylor
    • , Joseph R. McConnell
    • , Olivia J. Maselli
    • , Kenneth C. McGwire
    •  & Michael Sigl
  5. College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon 97331, USA.

    • Edward J. Brook
    • , Jon S. Edwards
    • , James E. Lee
    •  & Logan E. Mitchell
  6. Earth and Environmental Systems Institute, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania 16802, USA.

    • Todd Sowers
    • , Richard B. Alley
    • , John M. Fegyveresi
    •  & Donald E. Voigt
  7. Department of Geological Sciences and Department of Environmental Studies, Boulder, Colorado 80309, USA.

    • James W. C. White
  8. INSTAAR, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado 80309, USA.

    • James W. C. White
    •  & Bruce H. Vaughn
  9. Department of Geosciences, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania 16802, USA.

    • Richard B. Alley
    • , John M. Fegyveresi
    •  & Donald E. Voigt
  10. Institute of Global Environmental Change, Xi’an Jiaotong University, Xi’an 710049, China.

    • Hai Cheng
  11. Department of Earth Sciences, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455, USA.

    • Hai Cheng
    •  & R. Lawrence Edwards
  12. US Geological Survey, Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center, Lakewood, Colorado 80225, USA.

    • Gary D. Clow
  13. Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, South Dakota State University, Brookings, South Dakota 57007, USA.

    • Jihong Cole-Dai
    •  & David Ferris
  14. Department of Geography, University of California-Berkeley, Berkeley 94720, USA.

    • Kurt M. Cuffey
  15. Department of Imaging and Applied Physics, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia 6102, Australia.

    • Ross Edwards
  16. US Geological Survey, Denver, Colorado 80225, USA.

    • Joan J. Fitzpatrick
  17. Ice Drilling Design and Operations, Space Science Engineering Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA.

    • Jay Johnson
    •  & Nicolai Mortensen
  18. US Geologic Survey, National Ice Core Laboratory, Denver, Colorado 80225, USA.

    • Geoffrey Hargreaves
  19. EMECH Designs, Brooklyn, Wisconsin 53521, USA.

    • William Mason
  20. Antarctic Research Centre, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington 6012, New Zealand.

    • Peter Neff
  21. Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California 92037, USA.

    • Anais J. Orsi
    •  & Jeffrey P. Severinghaus
  22. Centre for Ice and Climate, Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, Juliane Maries Vej 30, 2100 Copenhagen, Denmark.

    • Trevor J. Popp
  23. Department of Geology and Physics, Lake Superior State University, Sault Ste Marie, Michigan 49783, USA.

    • Matthew K. Spencer
  24. Earth Observatory of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore 639798.

    • Xianfeng Wang
  25. Department of Earth Sciences, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire 03755, USA.

    • Gifford J. Wong

Consortia

  1. WAIS Divide Project Members

    Lists of participants and their affiliations appear at the end of the paper.

Authors

    Contributions

    The manuscript was written by T.J.F., E.J.S. and B.R.M. K.C.T. organized the WAIS Divide Project. T.J.F., K.C.T and T.J.P. made the electrical measurements and developed the electrical timescale with K.C.M. E.J.S., J.W.C.W., A.J.S., P.N., B.H.V. and S.W.S. measured the stable-isotope record. J.R.M., M.S., O.J.M. and R.E. developed the chemistry timescale and measured Na. E.J.B., T.S., L.E.M., J.S.E. and J.E.L. made the methane measurements. G.D.C. and K.M.C. measured the borehole temperature profile. J.C.-D. and D.F. provided an independent timescale for the brittle ice. Q.D., S.W.S. and E.J.S. performed the climate modelling. T.J.F., E.D.W., H. Conway and K.M.C. performed the ice-flow modelling to determine the accumulation rate. H. Cheng, R.L.E., X.W., J.P.S. and T.J.F. made comparisons with the Hulu cave timescale. M.K.S., J.J.F., J.M.F., D.E.V. and R.B.A. examined the physical properties of the core. W.M., J.J. and N.M. designed the drill. G.H. designed core-processing techniques. A.J.O., B.H.V., D.E.V., K.C.T., T.J.P. and G.J.W. led collection and processing of the core in the field.

    Competing interests

    The author declare no competing financial interests.

    Corresponding author

    Correspondence to T. J. Fudge.

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