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Centennial climate variability over the last ice age exhibits clear bipolar behavior. High-resolution analyses of marine sediment cores from the Iberian margin trace a number of associated changes simultaneously. Proxies of sea surface temperature and water mass distribution, as well as relative biomarker content, demonstrate that this typical north-south coupling was pervasive for the cold phases of climate during the past 420,000 years. Cold episodes after relatively warm and largely ice-free periods occurred when the predominance of deep water formation changed from northern to southern sources. These results reinforce the connection between rapid climate changes at Mediterranean latitudes and century-to-millennial variability in northern and southern polar regions.