A seminal book by Milankovitch in 1941 proposed that the sequence of ice ages that has characterized long term changes in the Earth’s climate over the past hundreds of thousands of years was due to changes in the amount of solar radiation reaching the Earth as a result of small variations in the Earth’s orientation and orbit with respect to the sun. Since then research has shown that Milankovitch cycles by themselves do not determine the timing of glacial and interglacial cycles and that we still lack a unified mechanism that links changes in Earth’s orbit to ice ages.
A recent study of ice cores from Antarctica provides a climate record for the past 800,000 years. The analysis reveals that atmospheric carbon dioxide was strongly correlated with Antarctic temperature throughout eight glacial cycles.
High-resolution Greenland ice core records reveal two warming events at the end of the last ice age involved warming of more than 10 °C. Furthermore the warming transition beginning 14,700 years ago occurred within only three years.
A new analysis of Antarctic ice cores shows that at the beginning of the last deglaciation, the start of rising CO2 lagged rising temperature by about 800 years which is consistent with the Southern Hemisphere playing a dominant role in the rise in atmospheric CO2. The concomitant rise in methane appears to be governed by Northern Hemisphere processes.