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Climate of the Past An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 06 Apr 2020

Submitted as: research article | 06 Apr 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal CP.

Bipolar volcanic synchronization of abrupt climate change in Greenland and Antarctic ice cores during the last glacial period

Anders Svensson1, Dorthe Dahl-Jensen1, Jørgen Peder Steffensen1, Thomas Blunier1, Sune O. Rasmussen1, Bo M. Vinther1, Paul Vallelonga1, Emilie Capron1, Vasileios Gkinis1, Eliza Cook1, Helle Astrid Kjær1, Raimund Muscheler2, Sepp Kipfstuhl1,3, Frank Wilhelms3, Thomas F. Stocker4, Hubertus Fischer4, Florian Adolphi2,4, Tobias Erhardt4, Michael Sigl4, Amaelle Landais5, Frédéric Parrenin6, Christo Buizert7, Joseph R. McConnell8, Mirko Severi9, Robert Mulvaney10, and Matthias Bigler4 Anders Svensson et al.
  • 1Physics of Ice, Climate and Earth, Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
  • 2Quaternary Sciences, Department of Geology, Lund University, Lund, Sweden
  • 3Stiftung Alfred-Wegener-Institut für Polar-und Meeresforschung, Bremerhaven, Germany
  • 4Climate and Environmental Physics, Physics Institute & Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
  • 5Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement, IPSL, UMR 8212, CEA-CNRS-UVSQ-UPS, Gif sur Yvette, France
  • 6Université Grenoble Alpes, CNRS, IRD, IGE, Grenoble, France
  • 7College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USA
  • 8Desert Research Institute, Nevada System of Higher Education, Reno, NV, USA
  • 9Department of Chemistry ‘Ugo Schiff’, University of Florence, Florence, Italy
  • 10British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, UK

Abstract. The last glacial period is characterized by a number of abrupt climate events that have been identified in both Greenland and Antarctic ice cores. The mechanisms governing this climate variability remain a puzzle that requires a precise synchronization of ice cores from the two Hemispheres to be resolved. Previously, Greenland and Antarctic ice cores have been synchronized primarily via their common records of gas concentrations or isotopes from the trapped air and via cosmogenic isotopes measured on the ice. In this work, we apply ice-core volcanic proxies and annual layer counting to identify large volcanic eruptions that have left a signature in both Greenland and Antarctica. Generally, no tephra is associated with those eruptions in the ice cores, so the source of the eruptions cannot be identified. Instead, we identify and match sequences of volcanic eruptions with bipolar distribution of sulfate, i.e. unique patterns of volcanic events separated by the same number of years at the two poles. Using this approach, we pinpoint 80 large bipolar volcanic eruptions throughout the second half of the last glacial period (12–60 ka before present). This improved ice-core synchronization is applied to determine the bipolar phasing of abrupt climate change events at decadal-scale precision. During abrupt transitions, we find more coherent Antarctic water isotopic signals (δ18O and deuterium excess) than was obtained from previous gas-based synchronizations, providing additional support for our volcanic framework. On average, the Antarctic bipolar seesaw climate response lags the midpoint of Greenland abrupt δ18O transitions by 122 ± 24 years. The time difference between Antarctic signals in deuterium excess and δ18O, which is less sensitive to synchronization errors, suggests an Antarctic δ18O lag of 152 ± 37 years. These estimates are shorter than the 200 years suggested by earlier gas-based synchronizations. As before, we find variations in the timing and duration between the response at different sites and for different events suggesting an interaction of oceanic and atmospheric teleconnection patterns as well as internal climate variability.

Anders Svensson et al.

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Anders Svensson et al.

Anders Svensson et al.


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Latest update: 02 Jun 2020
Publications Copernicus
Short summary
We identify signatures of large volcanic eruptions in Greenland and Antarctic ice cores during the last glacial period. This allows for a precise temporal alignment of ice cores from the the two Hemispheres. Thereby the exact timing of unexplained, abrupt climatic changes occurring during the last glacial period can be determined in a global context. The study thus provides a step towards a full understanding of elements of the climate system that may also play an important role in the future.
We identify signatures of large volcanic eruptions in Greenland and Antarctic ice cores during...