The 2083 m Vostok Antarctic ice core provides a unique opportunity for access to many paleoclimatic and paleo-environmental proxy data. This core, which has been dated by using a glaciological model, fully covers the last glacial-interglacial cycle, and goes back to the ice age which preceded the last interglaciai (−160 ka B P ).
A continuous deuterium record is now available and we have interpreted it in terms of local temperature changes. This record is dominated by the large 100 ka glacial-inter-glacial oscillation, with a maximum temperature amplitude of about 11°C; the long Last Glacial period is very well documented and it is confirmed that the warmest part of the Last Interglaciai period was about 2°C warmer than the Holocene. Comparison with the ice-volume marine record shows that the Vostok climate record is of relatively large geographical significance, which makes it possible to establish, over the last 160 ka, the link between worldwide climatic changes and the Vostok dust record that we present here.
This dust content corresponds to the non-soluble microparticles. It was obtained on a discontinuous basis (1 sample = about ∼10 m). Due to the very low concentration of some samples (down to 20 x 10−9gg−1) and cracks in the ice from the first 1000 m depth, we used stringent decontamination procedures. Size distribution and total concentration were measured, using a Coulter counter and an optical microscope; the results were tested against chemical measurements (aluminium concentration). In previous studies, it has been shown that the main proportion of insoluble microparticles is of terrigenous origin and represents the small-sized (radius <2 μm) dust produced on the continents.
The Vostok record displays an increase in dust concentration of up to 20 times during the coldest climatic periods, coupled with the presence of larger particles. It confirms, on a much longer time-scale, a characteristic previously noted in Antarctic and Greenland ice cores over the Last Glacial Maximum. This large increase is attributed to a greater areal extent of global tropical aridity during the cold periods, coupled with higher efficiency of atmospheric circulation in respect of dust production and transport. Beyond this, the relationship between the dust input and the successive stages during the Last Glacial is now very well documented and will be discussed with a view to correlating the Vostok climatic record with other marine and terrestrial paleodata.