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Constraints on the magnitude and patterns of ocean cooling at the Last Glacial Maximum


Observation-based reconstructions of sea surface temperature from relatively stable periods in the past, such as the Last Glacial Maximum, represent an important means of constraining climate sensitivity and evaluating model simulations1. The first quantitative global reconstruction of sea surface temperatures during the Last Glacial Maximum was developed by the Climate Long-Range Investigation, Mapping and Prediction (CLIMAP) project in the 1970s and 1980s (refs 2, 3). Since that time, several shortcomings of that earlier effort have become apparent4. Here we present an updated synthesis of sea surface temperatures during the Last Glacial Maximum, rigorously defined as the period between 23 and 19 thousand years before present, from the Multiproxy Approach for the Reconstruction of the Glacial Ocean Surface (MARGO) project5. We integrate microfossil and geochemical reconstructions of surface temperatures and include assessments of the reliability of individual records. Our reconstruction reveals the presence of large longitudinal gradients in sea surface temperature in all of the ocean basins, in contrast to the simulations of the Last Glacial Maximum climate available at present6,7.

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Figure 1: MARGO data coverage.
Figure 2: Maps of reconstructed LGM sea surface temperature anomalies.
Figure 3: Latitudinal averages of estimated LGM SST anomalies derived from microfossil and geochemical proxies.
Figure 4: Map and longitudinal averages of LGM SST annual mean anomalies for the 30 S–30 N tropical band.


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We are grateful to M. Kageyama, C. Dumas and J. Y. Peterschmitt for assistance with PMIP2 output files. We thank the HANSE Advanced Study Institute for hosting the first international MARGO workshop in Delmenhorst, Germany, in September 2002 and Fundació Abertis for hosting the second MARGO workshop in Castellet i la Gornal, Spain, in September 2003. We warmly thank the IGBP-PAGES project for its support. The MARGO project is an outcome of the EPILOG working group of IMAGES. C.W. is financially supported by CNRS and INSU.

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MARGO Project Members. Constraints on the magnitude and patterns of ocean cooling at the Last Glacial Maximum. Nature Geosci 2, 127–132 (2009).

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