Articles | Volume 6, issue 3
Clim. Past, 6, 345–365, 2010

Special issue: Retrospective views on our planet's future – PAGES Open...

Clim. Past, 6, 345–365, 2010

  09 Jun 2010

09 Jun 2010

Millennial and sub-millennial scale climatic variations recorded in polar ice cores over the last glacial period

E. Capron1, A. Landais1, J. Chappellaz2, A. Schilt3, D. Buiron2, D. Dahl-Jensen4, S. J. Johnsen4, J. Jouzel1, B. Lemieux-Dudon2, L. Loulergue2, M. Leuenberger3, V. Masson-Delmotte1, H. Meyer5, H. Oerter5, and B. Stenni6 E. Capron et al.
  • 1Institut Pierre-Simon Laplace/Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement, CEA-UMR INSU/CNRS 8212-UVSQ, 91191 Gif-sur-Yvette, France
  • 2Laboratoire de Glaciologie et Géophysique de l'Environnement, CNRS-UJF, 38400 St Martin d'Hères, France
  • 3Climate and Environmental Physics, Physics Institute, and Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Bern, Sidlerstr. 5, 3012 Bern, Switzerland
  • 4Centre for Ice and Climate, Niels Bohr Institute, Univ. of Copenhagen, Juliane Maries Vej 30, 2100, Copenhagen, Denmark
  • 5Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven, P.O. Box 120161, 27515, Bremerhaven, Germany
  • 6University of Trieste, Department of Geosciences, Via E. Weiss 2, 34127 Trieste, Italy

Abstract. Since its discovery in Greenland ice cores, the millennial scale climatic variability of the last glacial period has been increasingly documented at all latitudes with studies focusing mainly on Marine Isotopic Stage 3 (MIS 3; 28–60 thousand of years before present, hereafter ka) and characterized by short Dansgaard-Oeschger (DO) events. Recent and new results obtained on the EPICA and NorthGRIP ice cores now precisely describe the rapid variations of Antarctic and Greenland temperature during MIS 5 (73.5–123 ka), a time period corresponding to relatively high sea level. The results display a succession of abrupt events associated with long Greenland InterStadial phases (GIS) enabling us to highlight a sub-millennial scale climatic variability depicted by (i) short-lived and abrupt warming events preceding some GIS (precursor-type events) and (ii) abrupt warming events at the end of some GIS (rebound-type events). The occurrence of these sub-millennial scale events is suggested to be driven by the insolation at high northern latitudes together with the internal forcing of ice sheets. Thanks to a recent NorthGRIP-EPICA Dronning Maud Land (EDML) common timescale over MIS 5, the bipolar sequence of climatic events can be established at millennial to sub-millennial timescale. This shows that for extraordinary long stadial durations the accompanying Antarctic warming amplitude cannot be described by a simple linear relationship between the two as expected from the bipolar seesaw concept. We also show that when ice sheets are extensive, Antarctica does not necessarily warm during the whole GS as the thermal bipolar seesaw model would predict, questioning the Greenland ice core temperature records as a proxy for AMOC changes throughout the glacial period.