Oceanic forcing of the Marine Isotope Stage 11 interglacial

Dickson, Alexander J.; Beer, Christopher J.; Dempsey, Ciara; Maslin, Mark A.; Bendle, James A.; McClymont, Erin L. and Pancost, Richard D. (2009). Oceanic forcing of the Marine Isotope Stage 11 interglacial. Nature Geoscience, 2(6) pp. 428–433.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo527

Abstract

The interglacial known as Marine Isotope Stage 11 has been proposed to be analogous to the Holocene, owing to similarities in the amplitudes of orbital forcing. It has been difficult to compare the periods, however, because of the long duration of Stage 11 and a lack of detailed knowledge of any extreme climate events that may have occurred. Here we use the distinctive phasing between seasurface temperatures and the oxygen-isotope records of benthic foraminifera in the southeast Atlantic Ocean to stratigraphically align the Holocene interglacial with the first half of the Marine Isotope Stage 11 interglacial optimum. This alignment suggests that the second half of Marine Isotope Stage 11 should not be used as a reference for 'pre-anthropogenic' greenhouse-gas emissions. By compiling benthic carbon-isotope records from sites in the Atlantic Ocean on a single timescale, we also find that meridional overturning circulation strengthened about 415,000 years ago, at a time of high orbital obliquity. We propose that this mechanism transported heat to the high northern latitudes, inhibiting significant ice-sheet build-up and prolonging interglacial conditions. We suggest that this mechanism may have also prolonged other interglacial periods throughout the past 800,000 years.

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