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Last Interglacial Climates

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

George J. Kukla
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Palisades, New York, 10964,
Michael L. Bender
Department of Geosciences, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, 08544
Jacques-Louis de Beaulieu
Laboratoire de Botanique Historique et Palynologie, URA CNRS D1152, Faculte des Sciences et Techniques St. Jérôme, Boı̂te 451, F-13397 Marseille Cedex 20, France
Gerard Bond
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Palisades, New York, 10964
Wallace S. Broecker
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Palisades, New York, 10964
Piet Cleveringa
Netherlands Institute of Applied Geoscience TNO, National Geological Survey, P.O. Box 80015, 3508 TA Utrecht, The Netherlands
Joyce E. Gavin
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Palisades, New York, 10964
Timothy D. Herbert
Department of Geological Sciences, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, 02912
John Imbrie
Department of Geological Sciences, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, 02912
Jean Jouzel
Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de'l Environnement, L'Orme des Merisiers, Bat 709, CEA Saclay, 91191 Gif-Sur-Ivette Cedex, France
Lloyd D. Keigwin
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, 02543
Karen-Luise Knudsen
Department of Earth Sciences, University of Aarhus, DK 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark
Jerry F. McManus
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, 02543
Josef Merkt
Niedersachsisches Landesamt für Bodenforschung, Stilleweg 2, D 30655 Hannover, Germany
Daniel R. Muhs
US Geological Survey, MS 980, Box 25046, Federal Center, Denver, Colorado, 80225
Helmut Müller
Bevenser Weg 10, App. C 004, D 30625 Hannover, Germany
Richard Z. Poore
US Geological Survey, National Center MS 955, 12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, Reston, Virginia, 20192
Stephen C. Porter
Quaternary Research Center, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, 98195
Guy Seret
Department of Geology, Museum of Central Africa, B-3080 Tervuren, Belgium
Nicholas J. Shackleton
Department of Earth Sciences, Godwin Laboratory, University of Cambridge, Pembroke Street, Cambridge, CB2 3SA, United Kingdom
Charles Turner
Department of Earth Sciences, The Open University, Milton Keynes, MK76AA, United Kingdom
Polychronis C. Tzedakis
School of Geography, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT, United Kingdom
Isaac J. Winograd
US Geological Survey, National Center MS 432, 12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, Reston, Virginia, 20192


The last interglacial, commonly understood as an interval with climate as warm or warmer than today, is represented by marine isotope stage (MIS) 5e, which is a proxy record of low global ice volume and high sea level. It is arbitrarily dated to begin at approximately 130,000 yr B.P. and end at 116,000 yr B.P. with the onset of the early glacial unit MIS 5d. The age of the stage is determined by correlation to uranium–thorium dates of raised coral reefs. The most detailed proxy record of interglacial climate is found in the Vostok ice core where the temperature reached current levels 132,000 yr ago and continued rising for another two millennia. Approximately 127,000 yr ago the Eemian mixed forests were established in Europe. They developed through a characteristic succession of tree species, probably surviving well into the early glacial stage in southern parts of Europe. After ca. 115,000 yr ago, open vegetation replaced forests in northwestern Europe and the proportion of conifers increased significantly farther south. Air temperature at Vostok dropped sharply. Pulses of cold water affected the northern North Atlantic already in late MIS 5e, but the central North Atlantic remained warm throughout most of MIS 5d. Model results show that the sea surface in the eastern tropical Pacific warmed when the ice grew and sea level dropped. The essentially interglacial conditions in southwestern Europe remained unaffected by ice buildup until late MIS 5d when the forests disappeared abruptly and cold water invaded the central North Atlantic ca. 107,000 yr ago.

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University of Washington

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