Climate Science

Dates in a Cave

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Science  23 Oct 2009:
Vol. 326, Issue 5952, pp. 503
DOI: 10.1126/science.326_503d

Stalagmites—one type of a class of secondary mineral deposits, or speleothems, formed in caves—can provide precisely datable records of climate if they formed under the right conditions. Their datability is in fact almost unparalleled in most paleoclimate proxies. Fleitmann et al. present a record of climate, derived from stalagmites found in northern Turkey, which covers the past 50,000 years, including the 13 most recent Greenland interstadial (cold) events. The record closely resembles the Greenland ice core record of these episodes. The stalagmites can be dated much more precisely than the ice cores, however, and thus should generate a better ice chronology than those that exist now. Moreover, the improved age scale for the Greenland interstadial events does not support the idea (based on age models derived from ice cores) that the events occurred with an irregular periodicity of 1500 years, suggesting instead that the events were more likely to be stochastic in origin.

Geophys. Res. Lett. 36, L19707 (2009).

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