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A continuous high-resolution Western Mediterranean sea surface temperature (SST) alkenone record spanning the past 250,000 years shows that abrupt changes were more common at warming than at cooling. During marine isotope stage (MIS) 6, SST oscillated following a stadial-interstadial pattern but at lower intensities and rates of change than in the Dansgaard/Oeschger events of MIS 3. Some of the most prominent events occurred over MISs 5 and 7, after prolonged warm periods of high stability. Climate during the whole period was predominantly maintained in interglacial-interstadial conditions, whereas the duration of stadials was much shorter.