This study reports measurements from ocean floor sediments that provide the first direct evidence that not only do variations in the primary North/South Atlantic current correlate with periods of rapid warming and slower cooling in the Northern Hemisphere during the last ice age, but that the changes in the Atlantic overturning current occurred before and likely initiated these warming/cooling cycles.
The last deglaciation was characterized by increases in surface temperatures of 10-15 °C punctuated by millennial-scale warming/cooling periods, pulses of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide and asynchronously increasing methane. A geospatial-temporal variance analysis reveals a global warming trend correlating with rising CO2 on which is superimposed second trend millennial-scale regional warming/cooling periods associated with variation in the strength of the Atlantic overturning current.
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.
This seminal 1976 paper tested the Milnkovitch orbital forcing hypothesis by comparing the 450,000 year geological record of the climate as recorded in marine sediments with the cycle of variations in Earth’s tilt and orbit. The analysis finds clear evidence for orbital forcing in the marine sediment record, but the authors conclude that orbital forcing by itself is not able to explain the dominant 100,000 year glacial/deglacial cycle.