Rapid coupling between ice volume and polar temperature over the past 150,000 years

Nature. 2012 Nov 29;491(7426):744-7. doi: 10.1038/nature11593. Epub 2012 Nov 14.


Current global warming necessitates a detailed understanding of the relationships between climate and global ice volume. Highly resolved and continuous sea-level records are essential for quantifying ice-volume changes. However, an unbiased study of the timing of past ice-volume changes, relative to polar climate change, has so far been impossible because available sea-level records either were dated by using orbital tuning or ice-core timescales, or were discontinuous in time. Here we present an independent dating of a continuous, high-resolution sea-level record in millennial-scale detail throughout the past 150,000 years. We find that the timing of ice-volume fluctuations agrees well with that of variations in Antarctic climate and especially Greenland climate. Amplitudes of ice-volume fluctuations more closely match Antarctic (rather than Greenland) climate changes. Polar climate and ice-volume changes, and their rates of change, are found to covary within centennial response times. Finally, rates of sea-level rise reached at least 1.2 m per century during all major episodes of ice-volume reduction.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antarctic Regions
  • Anthozoa
  • Climate Change / history*
  • Climate Change / statistics & numerical data
  • Climate*
  • Feedback
  • Foraminifera / isolation & purification
  • Geologic Sediments / analysis
  • Greenland
  • History, Ancient
  • Ice Cover* / chemistry
  • Indian Ocean
  • Mediterranean Sea
  • Plankton / isolation & purification
  • Seawater / analysis
  • Seawater / chemistry
  • Temperature*
  • Time Factors