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4 - The last million years

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 September 2011

John Turner
Affiliation:
British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge
Gareth J. Marshall
Affiliation:
British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge
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Summary

Introduction

The period examined in this chapter extends back one million years, a time span that was chosen as encompassing the mid and late Quaternary and being slightly longer than the oldest Antarctic ice obtained at the time of writing: this was drilled at Dome C and extends back to ~800 kyr BP (years before AD 1950) (Parrenin et al., 2007). It also comprises the modern half of the Pleistocene (‘most recent’) epoch, a term originally coined by English geologist Charles Lyell in 1839. Throughout this period there has been the cyclic growth and decay of major Northern Hemisphere ice sheets through the exchange of mass between these ice sheets and the oceans.

On the notation used

Examining climate on this long-term timescale, using oxygen-isotope (δ18O) stratigraphy analysis of marine sediment cores and ice cores, has led to the development of a particular notation that allows direct comparison between records with differing sedimentation/accumulation rates. Emiliani (1955) introduced marine isotope stages (MIS) based on δ18O records derived from deep sea sediment cores. These MIS are time periods with boundaries at the mid-point between isotopic temperature maxima and minima of successive stages (Fig. 4.1). Beginning with MIS 1, which characterises the Holocene, odd and even stages represent interglacial and glacial periods further back in time, respectively: the exception is MIS 3, which was incorrectly identified as an interglacial when first defined and actually forms part of the last glacial with MIS 2 and MIS 4.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2011

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  • The last million years
  • John Turner, British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, Gareth J. Marshall, British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge
  • Book: Climate Change in the Polar Regions
  • Online publication: 07 September 2011
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511975431.005
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  • The last million years
  • John Turner, British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, Gareth J. Marshall, British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge
  • Book: Climate Change in the Polar Regions
  • Online publication: 07 September 2011
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511975431.005
Available formats
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To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • The last million years
  • John Turner, British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, Gareth J. Marshall, British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge
  • Book: Climate Change in the Polar Regions
  • Online publication: 07 September 2011
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511975431.005
Available formats
×