Antarctic surface temperature and elevation during the Last Glacial Maximum

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  04 Jun 2021:
Vol. 372, Issue 6546, pp. 1097-1101
DOI: 10.1126/science.abd2897

You are currently viewing the abstract.

View Full Text

Log in to view the full text

Log in through your institution

Log in through your institution

Antarctic paleotemperatures

It has been widely thought that East Antarctica was ∼9°C cooler during the Last Glacial Maximum, close to the ∼10°C difference between then and now determined independently for West Antarctica. Buizert et al. used borehole thermometry, firn density reconstructions, and climate modeling to show that the temperature in East Antarctica was actually only ∼4° to 7°C cooler during the Last Glacial Maximum. This result has important consequences for our understanding of Antarctic climate, polar amplification, and global climate change.

Science, abd2897, this issue p. 1097


Water-stable isotopes in polar ice cores are a widely used temperature proxy in paleoclimate reconstruction, yet calibration remains challenging in East Antarctica. Here, we reconstruct the magnitude and spatial pattern of Last Glacial Maximum surface cooling in Antarctica using borehole thermometry and firn properties in seven ice cores. West Antarctic sites cooled ~10°C relative to the preindustrial period. East Antarctic sites show a range from ~4° to ~7°C cooling, which is consistent with the results of global climate models when the effects of topographic changes indicated with ice core air-content data are included, but less than those indicated with the use of water-stable isotopes calibrated against modern spatial gradients. An altered Antarctic temperature inversion during the glacial reconciles our estimates with water-isotope observations.

View Full Text

Stay Connected to Science