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Links between eccentricity forcing and the 100,000-year glacial cycle


Variations in the eccentricity (100,000 yr), obliquity (41,000 yr) and precession (23,000 yr) of Earth’s orbit have been linked to glacial–interglacial climate cycles. It is generally thought that the 100,000-yr glacial cycles of the past 800,000 yr are a result of orbital eccentricity1,2,3,4. However, the eccentricity cycle produces negligible 100-kyr power in seasonal or mean annual insolation, although it does modulate the amplitude of the precession cycle. Alternatively, it has been suggested that the recent glacial cycles are driven purely by the obliquity cycle5,6,7. Here I use statistical analyses of insolation and the climate of the past five million years to characterize the link between eccentricity and the 100,000-yr glacial cycles. Using cross-wavelet phase analysis, I show that the relative phase of eccentricity and glacial cycles has been stable since 1.2 Myr ago, supporting the hypothesis that 100,000-yr glacial cycles are paced8,9,10 by eccentricity4,11. However, I find that the time-dependent 100,000-yr power of eccentricity has been anticorrelated with that of climate since 5 Myr ago, with strong eccentricity forcing associated with weaker power in the 100,000-yr glacial cycle. I propose that the anticorrelation arises from the strong precession forcing associated with strong eccentricity forcing, which disrupts the internal climate feedbacks that drive the 100,000-yr glacial cycle. This supports the hypothesis that internally driven climate feedbacks are the source of the 100,000-yr climate variations12.

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Figure 1: Wavelet power spectra.
Figure 2: 100-kyr phase.
Figure 3: Modulations in the 100-kyr power of δ18O and eccentricity.

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I thank T. Herbert, D. Lea and M. Raymo for many useful discussions.

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Correspondence to Lorraine E. Lisiecki.

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Lisiecki, L. Links between eccentricity forcing and the 100,000-year glacial cycle. Nature Geosci 3, 349–352 (2010).

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