Research Article

Pliocene Warmth, Polar Amplification, and Stepped Pleistocene Cooling Recorded in NE Arctic Russia

Science  21 Jun 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6139, pp. 1421-1427
DOI: 10.1126/science.1233137

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From Russia with Lovely Data

Climate and the atmospheric concentration of CO2 are closely linked. Brigham-Grette et al. (p. 1421, published online 9 May) present data from Lake El'gygytgyn, in northeast Arctic Russia, that shows how climate varied between 3.6 and 2.2 million years ago, an important interval in the global cooling trend that accelerated rapidly at the end of the Miocene. Summer temperatures were about 10°C warmer than today, even though the concentration of atmospheric CO2 was similar.

Abstract

Understanding the evolution of Arctic polar climate from the protracted warmth of the middle Pliocene into the earliest glacial cycles in the Northern Hemisphere has been hindered by the lack of continuous, highly resolved Arctic time series. Evidence from Lake El’gygytgyn, in northeast (NE) Arctic Russia, shows that 3.6 to 3.4 million years ago, summer temperatures were ~8°C warmer than today, when the partial pressure of CO2 was ~400 parts per million. Multiproxy evidence suggests extreme warmth and polar amplification during the middle Pliocene, sudden stepped cooling events during the Pliocene-Pleistocene transition, and warmer than present Arctic summers until ~2.2 million years ago, after the onset of Northern Hemispheric glaciation. Our data are consistent with sea-level records and other proxies indicating that Arctic cooling was insufficient to support large-scale ice sheets until the early Pleistocene.

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