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Climate of the Past An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 12, issue 9
Clim. Past, 12, 1933–1948, 2016
https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-12-1933-2016
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Clim. Past, 12, 1933–1948, 2016
https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-12-1933-2016
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 29 Sep 2016

Research article | 29 Sep 2016

How warm was Greenland during the last interglacial period?

Amaelle Landais1, Valérie Masson-Delmotte1, Emilie Capron2,3, Petra M. Langebroek4, Pepijn Bakker5, Emma J. Stone6, Niklaus Merz7, Christoph C. Raible7, Hubertus Fischer7, Anaïs Orsi1, Frédéric Prié1, Bo Vinther2, and Dorthe Dahl-Jensen2 Amaelle Landais et al.
  • 1Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement – IPSL, UMR 8212, CEA-CNRS-UVSQ-Université Paris Saclay, Gif-sur-Yvette, France
  • 2Center for Ice and Climate, Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, Juliane Maries Vej 30, 2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark
  • 3British Antarctic Survey, High Cross Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0ET, UK
  • 4Uni Research Climate, Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, Nygårdsgaten 112-114, 5008 Bergen, Norway
  • 5College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA
  • 6BRIDGE, School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
  • 7Climate and Environmental Physics, Physics Institute, and Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Bern, Sidlerstrasse 5, 3012 Bern, Switzerland

Abstract. The last interglacial period (LIG, ∼ 129–116 thousand years ago) provides the most recent case study of multimillennial polar warming above the preindustrial level and a response of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets to this warming, as well as a test bed for climate and ice sheet models. Past changes in Greenland ice sheet thickness and surface temperature during this period were recently derived from the North Greenland Eemian Ice Drilling (NEEM) ice core records, northwest Greenland. The NEEM paradox has emerged from an estimated large local warming above the preindustrial level (7.5 ± 1.8 °C at the deposition site 126 kyr ago without correction for any overall ice sheet altitude changes between the LIG and the preindustrial period) based on water isotopes, together with limited local ice thinning, suggesting more resilience of the real Greenland ice sheet than shown in some ice sheet models. Here, we provide an independent assessment of the average LIG Greenland surface warming using ice core air isotopic composition (δ15N) and relationships between accumulation rate and temperature. The LIG surface temperature at the upstream NEEM deposition site without ice sheet altitude correction is estimated to be warmer by +8.5 ± 2.5 °C compared to the preindustrial period. This temperature estimate is consistent with the 7.5 ± 1.8 °C warming initially determined from NEEM water isotopes but at the upper end of the preindustrial period to LIG temperature difference of +5.2 ± 2.3 °C obtained at the NGRIP (North Greenland Ice Core Project) site by the same method. Climate simulations performed with present-day ice sheet topography lead in general to a warming smaller than reconstructed, but sensitivity tests show that larger amplitudes (up to 5 °C) are produced in response to prescribed changes in sea ice extent and ice sheet topography.

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The last lnterglacial (LIG; 116 000 to 129 000 years before present) surface temperature at the upstream Greenland NEEM deposition site is estimated to be warmer by +7 to +11 °C compared to the preindustrial period. We show that under such warm temperatures, melting of snow probably led to a significant surface melting. There is a paradox between the extent of the Greenland ice sheet during the LIG and the strong warming during this period that models cannot solve.
The last lnterglacial (LIG; 116 000 to 129 000 years before present) surface temperature at the...
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