Climate Dynamics

, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 257–267

On the timing and mechanism of millennial-scale climate variability during the last glacial cycle


  •  E. Rohling
    • Southampton Oceanography Centre, Southampton SO14 3ZH, UK
  •  P. Mayewski
    • Institute for Quaternary and Climate Studies and Department of Geological Sciences, University of Maine, Orono, Maine 04469, USA
  •  P. Challenor
    • Southampton Oceanography Centre, Southampton SO14 3ZH, UK

DOI: 10.1007/s00382-002-0266-4

Cite this article as:
Rohling, E., Mayewski, P. & Challenor, P. Climate Dynamics (2003) 20: 257. doi:10.1007/s00382-002-0266-4


The demonstration that natural climate variability during the last glacial cycle shifted rapidly between remarkable extremes has dramatically revised the understanding of climate change. To further advance our understanding, research continues into the timings, geographic distribution, and nature of the millennial-scale climate extremes, and into the mechanisms for intra- and inter-hemispheric transmission of variability through the climate/ocean system. Complementing the traditional definition of the timings of millennial-scale climate variability from ice-core δ18O records, we here further narrow down the temporal constraints by determining statistically significant anomalies in the major ion series of the GISP2 ice core. This exercise offers an objective definition of the timing of climatic anomalies in Northern Hemisphere palaeoclimate proxy records of the last 110,000 years that significantly improves the potential for inter-calibration of 'ice-core tuned' chronostratigraphies. We then present a process-oriented synthesis of proxy records from the Northern Hemisphere. This leads to a conclusion that the Dansgaard-Oeschger (D-O) style fluctuations in these records are (virtually) in phase, since all fall within a clear (atmospheric) pattern of concerted relative dominance shifts between polar/westerly dominated winter-type conditions and tropical/monsoon dominated summer-type conditions. Finally, we speculate on a monsoon-related mechanism that could help explain the anomalously long duration of D-O interstadials 12, 8, and 1, which coincided with cooling trends in Antarctic records.

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© Springer-Verlag 2003