PerspectiveClimate Change

Marching in Near Lock-Step

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Science  03 Feb 2012:
Vol. 335, Issue 6068, pp. 548-549
DOI: 10.1126/science.1218365

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Over the past ∼100,000 years, intervals of gradual climate cooling have repeatedly been followed by abrupt warming events. Collectively known as Dansgaard/Oeschger (D/O) cycles (1), these ∼1500-year-long cycles are recorded in the oxygen isotope record of Greenland ice cores and in layers of iceberg-rafted sediments in the North Atlantic Ocean known as Heinrich layers (2) that record collapses of the Northern Hemisphere ice sheets. On page 570 of this issue, Kanner et al. (3) report a stunning new archive of the oxygen isotopic composition of tropical precipitation recorded in the deposits of Pacupahuain Cave (see the figure, panel A), located high on the eastern side of the Peruvian Andes, that matches the North Atlantic/Greenland records in striking detail. The results help to elucidate how climate change—both past and future—in one region of the globe may drive climate changes in far-flung regions.