In January 1998, a collaborative ice-drilling project between Russia, the United States, and France at the Russian Vostok revealed that over the past four cycles atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide correlates closely with Antarctic air-temperature. The analysis also suggests a sequence of events that is characteristic of every termination; warming by orbital forcing, then increasing greenhouse gases, and followed by ice sheet melting and reduced albedo.
Marine cores collected in the western tropical Pacific were used to compare the chronology of Southern Ocean warming near Antarctica and rising CO2 during the last deglaciation. The results provide evidence that the Southern Ocean off Antarctica warmed by ~2°C between 19,000 and 17,000 years before the present, about 1,000 years before the rise in atmospheric CO2.
It is known that orbital forcing is involved in glacial/deglacial cycles but is insufficient by itself to explain the glacial/deglacial cycles. This study argues that a biological feedback mechanism kicks in when a threshold is reached and together with orbital forcing results in the sustained and rapidly increasing CO2 and surface temperature of a deglaciation.
A recent study has created a simple mathematical rule that can account for the timing of the onset of interglacials following ice ages over the past three million years. The rule is based on predictable long-term astronomical variations in the Earth’s orbit and tilt called Milankovitch cycles.