Reconciliation of the Devils Hole climate record with orbital forcing

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  08 Jan 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6269, pp. 165-168
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad4132

The difference is all in the water

Glacial cycles are in part controlled by the pattern of incident solar energy determined by the geometry of Earth's orbit around the Sun. The classic record of the penultimate deglaciation from Devils Hole, Nevada, did not reconcile the presumption of so-called orbital forcing, however, suggesting that deglaciation began ~10,000 years too early. Moseley et al. present analyses of a new set of data from Devils Hole that show that the deglaciation indeed occurred at the time expected on the basis of orbital forcing. The age offset displayed by the older samples apparently was caused by interaction with groundwater, which preferentially affected the deeper original samples but not the new shallower samples.

Science, this issue p. 165


The driving force behind Quaternary glacial-interglacial cycles and much associated climate change is widely considered to be orbital forcing. However, previous versions of the iconic Devils Hole (Nevada) subaqueous calcite record exhibit shifts to interglacial values ~10,000 years before orbitally forced ice age terminations, and interglacial durations ~10,000 years longer than other estimates. Our measurements from Devils Hole 2 replicate virtually all aspects of the past 204,000 years of earlier records, except for the timing during terminations, and they lower the age of the record near Termination II by ~8000 years, removing both ~10,000-year anomalies. The shift to interglacial values now broadly coincides with the rise in boreal summer insolation, the marine termination, and the rise in atmospheric CO2, which is consistent with mechanisms ultimately tied to orbital forcing.

View Full Text

Stay Connected to Science