Large and abrupt temperature oscillations during the last glacial period, known as Dansgaard-Oeschger (DO) events, are clearly observed in the Greenland ice core record. Here we present a new high-resolution chemical (2 mm) and stable isotope (20 mm) record from the North Greenland Ice Core Project (NGRIP) ice core at the onset of one of the most prominent DO events of the last glacial, DO-8, observed ∼38,000 years ago. The unique, subannual-resolution NGRIP record provides a true sequence of change during a DO warming with detailed annual layer counting of very high depth resolution geochemical measurements used to determine the exact duration of the transition. The continental ions, indicative of long-range atmospheric loading and dustiness from East Asia, are the first to change, followed by the snow accumulation, the moisture source conditions, and finally the atmospheric temperature in Greenland. The sequence of events shows that atmospheric and oceanic source and circulation changes preceded the DO warming by several years.