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Phasing and amplitude of sea-level and climate change during the penultimate interglacial

Nature Geoscience volume 2, pages 355359 (2009) | Download Citation

  • An Erratum to this article was published on 21 May 2009

Abstract

Earth’s climate has oscillated between short-lived interglacial and extended glacial periods for the past million years. Before the last interglacial, absolutely dated markers of sea level become increasingly rare; hence, our knowledge of sea-level change driven by the waxing and waning of continental ice sheets before that time is largely based on proxy records from deep-sea cores1,2,3 that lack direct age control. Here we present precise U–Th ages for a remarkable collection of submerged speleothems4,5 from Italy, which record three sea-level highstands during the penultimate interglacial period, Marine Isotope Stage 7, from 245,000 to 190,000 years ago. We find that sea level rose above −18 m (relative to modern sea level) several thousand years before maximum Northern Hemisphere insolation during the first and third highstands. In contrast, the second highstand, Marine Isotope Stage 7.3, is essentially synchronous with the insolation maximum, and sea level during this highstand only peaked at about −18 m, even though the concurrent insolation forcing was the strongest of the three highstands. We attribute the different phasing and amplitude of the Marine Isotope Stage 7.3 highstand to the extensive continental glaciation that preceded it. This finding highlights the significance of cryosphere response time to the climate system.

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Acknowledgements

We thank J. Desmarchelier, G. Mortimer and L. Kinsley for analytical assistance and G. Caramanna for sampling stalagmite ASN in the cave. This work was supported by a grant from the Australian Research Council and the VECTOR project funded by the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research.

Author information

Author notes

    • Tezer M. Esat

    Present address: Australian Nuclear Science Technology Organisation, Institute for Environmental Research, Menai, NSW 2234, Australia

Affiliations

  1. Research School of Earth Sciences, The Australian National University, 1 Mills Rd, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia

    • Andrea Dutton
    • , Tezer M. Esat
    • , Kurt Lambeck
    •  & Malcolm T. McCulloch
  2. CEREGE, UMR 6635 CNRS, Aix-Marseille University, IRD, College de France, Europole de l’Arbois BP 80, F-13545 Aix-en-Provence Cdx 4, France

    • Edouard Bard
  3. ENEA, cre Casaccia, via Anguillarese 301, 00123 Rome, Italy

    • Fabrizio Antonioli

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Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Andrea Dutton or Tezer M. Esat.

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    Supplementary Table S1, Figs S1–S3

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo470

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