Research Article

The Last Glacial Maximum

Science  07 Aug 2009:
Vol. 325, Issue 5941, pp. 710-714
DOI: 10.1126/science.1172873

You are currently viewing the abstract.

View Full Text
As a service to the community, AAAS/Science has made this article free with registration.

The Melting Is in the Details

Global sea level rises and falls as ice sheets and glaciers melt and grow, providing an integrated picture of the changes in ice volume but little information about how much individual ice fields are contributing to those variations. Knowing the regional structure of ice variability during glaciations and deglaciations will clarify the mechanisms of the glacial cycle. Clark et al. (p. 710) compiled and analyzed more than 5000 radiocarbon and cosmogenic surface exposure ages in order to develop a record of maximum regional ice extent around the time of the Last Glacial Maximum. The responses of the Northern and Southern Hemispheres differed significantly, which reveals how the evolution of specific ice sheets affected sea level and provides insight into how insolation controlled the deglaciation.

Abstract

We used 5704 14C, 10Be, and 3He ages that span the interval from 10,000 to 50,000 years ago (10 to 50 ka) to constrain the timing of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) in terms of global ice-sheet and mountain-glacier extent. Growth of the ice sheets to their maximum positions occurred between 33.0 and 26.5 ka in response to climate forcing from decreases in northern summer insolation, tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures, and atmospheric CO2. Nearly all ice sheets were at their LGM positions from 26.5 ka to 19 to 20 ka, corresponding to minima in these forcings. The onset of Northern Hemisphere deglaciation 19 to 20 ka was induced by an increase in northern summer insolation, providing the source for an abrupt rise in sea level. The onset of deglaciation of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet occurred between 14 and 15 ka, consistent with evidence that this was the primary source for an abrupt rise in sea level ~14.5 ka.

View Full Text

Cited By...