Research Article

The 100,000-Year Ice-Age Cycle Identified and Found to Lag Temperature, Carbon Dioxide, and Orbital Eccentricity

Science  15 Sep 2000:
Vol. 289, Issue 5486, pp. 1897-1902
DOI: 10.1126/science.289.5486.1897

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Abstract

The deep-sea sediment oxygen isotopic composition (δ18O) record is dominated by a 100,000-year cyclicity that is universally interpreted as the main ice-age rhythm. Here, the ice volume component of this δ18O signal was extracted by using the record of δ18O in atmospheric oxygen trapped in Antarctic ice at Vostok, precisely orbitally tuned. The benthic marine δ18O record is heavily contaminated by the effect of deep-water temperature variability, but by using the Vostok record, the δ18O signals of ice volume, deep-water temperature, and additional processes affecting air δ18O (that is, a varying Dole effect) were separated. At the 100,000-year period, atmospheric carbon dioxide, Vostok air temperature, and deep-water temperature are in phase with orbital eccentricity, whereas ice volume lags these three variables. Hence, the 100,000-year cycle does not arise from ice sheet dynamics; instead, it is probably the response of the global carbon cycle that generates the eccentricity signal by causing changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration.

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