Glacial terminations as southern warmings without northern control

The change from a glacial to an interglacial climate is paced by variations in Earth’s orbit. However, the detailed sequence of events that leads to a glacial termination remains controversial. It is particularly unclear whether the northern or southern hemisphere leads the termination. Here we present a hypothesis for the beginning and continuation of glacial terminations, which relies on the observation that the initial stages of terminations are indistinguishable from the warming stage of events in Antarctica known as Antarctic Isotopic Maxima, which occur frequently during glacial periods. Such warmings in Antarctica generally begin to reverse with the onset of a warm Dansgaard–Oeschger event in the northern hemisphere. However, in the early stages of a termination, Antarctic warming is not followed by any abrupt warming in the north. We propose that the lack of an Antarctic climate reversal enables southern warming and the associated atmospheric carbon dioxide rise to reach a point at which full deglaciation becomes inevitable. In our view, glacial terminations, in common with other warmings that do not lead to termination, are led from the southern hemisphere, but only specific conditions in the northern hemisphere enable the climate state to complete its shift to interglacial conditions.


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Authors: Wolff, E.W., Fischer, H., Rothlisberger, R.

On this site: Eric Wolff
1 January, 2009
Nature Geoscience / 2
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