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Featured Science Paper

Interglacial and glacial variability from the last 800 ka in marine, ice and terrestrial archives

The last 800,000 years consist of a series of long, cold, glacial periods punctuated by relatively short, warmer, interglacials, such as the one we have been experiencing for the last 11,000 years. From individual climate records, such as an Antarctic ice core, we gain an impression that some interglacials were stronger than others, and some glacials colder than others. However, it is only by combining many records together that we can gain a global picture, and begin to assess why each climate period behaves as it does.

This paper is a synthesis of 37 ice, marine and terrestrial records covering the last 800,000 years. Only records with adequate length, completeness and resolution were included. Work was done to ensure that the records were synchronised before comparing the strengths of each climate period across the piece. Our work confirms that particularly strong (warm) interglacials have been confined to the last 450,000 years. Strong (cold) glacials are also concentrated in the recent half of the records. The work highlights the complexity of many interglacials, with multiple peaks and troughs whose origin requires explanation. A major result of this work is compiled datasets and maps of interglacial strength which provide a target for modelling studies and for conceptual understanding.

Link to the full paper in the NERC Open Research Archive


Lang, N.J., Wolff, E.W. 2011


Climate of the Past, 7, No. 2, 361-380