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Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union

Antarctic ice core: CO2 and climatic change over the last climatic cycle



A deep ice core extracted at Vostok station, Antarctica, provides a record of atmospheric climate and CO2 that is representative of global changes over the last glacial-interglacial cycle (160,000 years). Spectral analysis of the isotope temperature profile confirms the role of astronomical forcing in Quaternary climate changes. There is a remarkably close association between the climatic and CO2 records. This association indicates a fundamental link between the climate system and the carbon cycle, although the processes involved are not clearly understood. A simple statistical comparison of the Vostok temperature record with various potential forcing factors suggests that CO2 concentrations may have played a major role in the observed climatic record, in addition to insolation inputs exerted locally and at northern hemisphere latitudes (where continental ice sheets are growing and decaying at the glacial-interglacial time scale). We propose that CO2 and other atmospheric chemical changes may have had an important effect on Quaternary climate by providing, for the large 100-kyr oscillation, the necessary amplification of the orbital forcing at that frequency.

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