Letter | Published:

Persistent link between solar activity and Greenland climate during the Last Glacial Maximum

Nature Geoscience volume 7, pages 662666 (2014) | Download Citation


Changes in solar activity have previously been proposed to cause decadal- to millennial-scale fluctuations in both the modern and Holocene climates1. Direct observational records of solar activity, such as sunspot numbers, exist for only the past few hundred years, so solar variability for earlier periods is typically reconstructed from measurements of cosmogenic radionuclides such as 10Be and 14C from ice cores and tree rings2,3. Here we present a high-resolution 10Be record from the ice core collected from central Greenland by the Greenland Ice Core Project (GRIP). The record spans from 22,500 to 10,000 years ago, and is based on new and compiled data4,5,6. Using 14C records7,8 to control for climate-related influences on 10Be deposition, we reconstruct centennial changes in solar activity. We find that during the Last Glacial Maximum, solar minima correlate with more negative δ18O values of ice and are accompanied by increased snow accumulation and sea-salt input over central Greenland. We suggest that solar minima could have induced changes in the stratosphere that favour the development of high-pressure blocking systems located to the south of Greenland, as has been found in observations and model simulations for recent climate9,10. We conclude that the mechanism behind solar forcing of regional climate change may have been similar under both modern and Last Glacial Maximum climate conditions.

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We dedicate this paper to S. Johnsen, who unfortunately left us last year. He was a great colleague and scientist who was always supportive of 10Be measurements in ice cores. A-M. Berggren and A. Sturevik-Storm are thanked for their help in the Uppsala laboratory. We appreciate comments by one of the original PIs of the GRIP 10Be project, G. Raisbeck. We acknowledge P. Kubik and M. Christl for performing 10Be measurements at ETH Zurich. The study was supported by the Swedish Research Council (VR) through a Linnaeus grant to Lund University (LUCCI) and the Crafoord Foundation. R.M. was supported by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences through a grant financed by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation and VR (Dnr: 2013-8421). The chemistry–climate model experiments have been performed within the Helmholtz-University Young Investigators Group NATHAN of K.M. financially supported by the Helmholtz-Association through the President’s Initiative and Networking Funds, the GFZ Potsdam, Freie Universität Berlin and since 2012 by GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel. We thank C. Petrick for conducting the model calculations at the Deutsche Klimarechenzentrum (DKRZ) Hamburg. The climate model analysis is part of the WCRP SPARC-SOLARIS/HEPPA project (http://solarisheppa.geomar.de/solarisheppa/) and the EU-Cost Action ES1005 ‘TOSCA’ (www.cost-tosca.eu).

Author information


  1. Department of Geology—Quaternary Sciences, Lund University, 22362 Lund, Sweden

    • Florian Adolphi
    • , Raimund Muscheler
    • , Jesper Sjolte
    •  & Svante Björck
  2. Centre for Ice and Climate, Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, 2100 Copenhagen, Denmark

    • Anders Svensson
  3. Department of Earth Sciences, Uppsala University, 75236 Uppsala, Sweden

    • Ala Aldahan
  4. Department of Geology, United Arab Emirates University, 17551 Al Ain, UAE

    • Ala Aldahan
  5. Tandem Laboratory, Uppsala University, 75120 Uppsala, Sweden

    • Göran Possnert
  6. Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, Eawag, 8600 Dübendorf, Switzerland

    • Jürg Beer
  7. Division of Ocean Circulation and Climate, GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, 24105 Kiel, Germany

    • Katja Matthes
    •  & Rémi Thiéblemont


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F.A. performed the analysis in correspondence with R.M. and wrote the initial version of the manuscript. R.M. initiated the study. A.S. provided details on ice-core timescales and accumulation rates. A.A., G.P. and J.B. contributed to 10Be data acquisition in Uppsala, Sweden and Zurich, Switzerland. J.S. and S.B. provided insight into atmospheric dynamics and palaeoclimate. K.M. and R.T. conducted and analysed climate model experiments. All authors discussed and edited the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Florian Adolphi.

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