Ice Core Evidence for Extensive Melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet in the Last Interglacial

Science  26 May 1989:
Vol. 244, Issue 4907, pp. 964-968
DOI: 10.1126/science.244.4907.964


Evidence from ice at the bottom of ice cores from the Canadian Arctic Islands and Camp Century and Dye-3 in Greenland suggests that the Greenland ice sheet melted extensively or completely during the last interglacial period more than 100 ka (thousand years ago), in contrast to earlier interpretations. The presence of dirt particles in the basal ice has previously been thought to indicate that the base of the ice sheets had melted and that the evidence for the time of original growth of these ice masses had been destroyed. However, the particles most likely blew onto the ice when the dimensions of the ice caps and ice sheets were much smaller. Ice texture, gas content, and other evidence also suggest that the basal ice at each drill site is superimposed ice, a type of ice typical of the early growth stages of an ice cap or ice sheet. If the present-day ice masses began their growth during the last interglacial, the ice sheet from the earlier (Illinoian) glacial period must have competely or largely melted during the early part of the same interglacial period. If such melting did occur, the 6-meter higher-than-present sea level during the Sangamon cannot be attributed to disintegration of the West Antarctic ice sheet, as has been suggested.