19 November, 2015

The Earth’s climate was warmer than today by at least 1°C during the Last Interglacial (between 129,000 and 116,000 years ago).

Thus, the Last Interglacial represents an invaluable case study to investigate the response of the polar ice sheets and the ocean circulation to global warming. However, large age uncertainties are associated with many climatic archives covering this time interval. This limits the establishment of an accurate sequence of climatic events across the globe and a robust understanding of the mechanisms and interactions at play in the context of a warmer-than-present-day climate.

A study led by Dr Aline Govin (LSCE, France) and BAS paleoclimatologist Dr Emilie Capron was recently published in Quaternary Science Reviews which aims at increasing the awareness of the paleoclimatic (both model and data) communities to the hypotheses and uncertainties underlying the chronologies defined across the Last Interglacial. The paper reviews the strengths and limitations of the methods that are commonly used to date or develop age models in climatic archives (corals, speleothems, ice cores, marine and terrestrial sediments) and subsequently formulates recommendations. It also proposes a sequence of major climatic events with associated age uncertainties. It should serve as a new benchmark to disentangle mechanisms of the Earth System’s response to global warming and evaluate numerical simulations performed across the Last Interglacial by climate models that are also used for future climate predictions.

This work results from a strong collaborative effort between 24 scientists from 16 different research institutes in the framework of the EU-FP7 Past4Future project.


Sequence of events from the onset to the demise of the Last Interglacial: evaluating strengths and limitations of chronologies used in climatic archives

Govin, A.; Capron, E.; Tzedakis, P.C.; Verheyden, S.; Ghaleb, B.; Hillaire-Marcel, C.; St.-Onge, G.; Stoner, J.S.; Bassinot, F.; Bazin, L.; Blunier, T.; Combourieu-Nebout, N.; El Ouahabi, A.; Genty, D.; Gersonde, R.; Jimenez-Amat, P.; Landais, A.; Martrat, B.; Masson-Delmotte, V.; Parrenin, F.; Seidenkrantz, M.-S.; Veres, D.; Waelbroeck, C.; Zahn, R. 2015

Published by
Quaternary Science Reviews, 129. 1-36. 10.1016/j.quascirev.2015.09.018