Seasonal temperatures in West Antarctica during the Holocene

Jones, Tyler R., Cuffey, Kurt M., Roberts, William, Markle, Bradley R., Steig, Eric J., Stevens, C. Max, Valdes, Paul J., Fudge, T. J., Sigl, Michael, Hughes, Abigail G., Morris, Valerie, Vaughn, Bruce H., Garland, Joshua, Vinther, Bo M., Rozmiarek, Kevin S., Brashear, Chloe A. and White, James W. C. (2023) Seasonal temperatures in West Antarctica during the Holocene. Nature, 613 (7943). pp. 292-297. ISSN 0028-0836

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The recovery of long-term climate proxy records with seasonal resolution is rare because of natural smoothing processes, discontinuities and limitations in measurement resolution. Yet insolation forcing, a primary driver of multimillennial-scale climate change, acts through seasonal variations with direct impacts on seasonal climate1. Whether the sensitivity of seasonal climate to insolation matches theoretical predictions has not been assessed over long timescales. Here, we analyse a continuous record of water-isotope ratios from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide ice core to reveal summer and winter temperature changes through the last 11,000 years. Summer temperatures in West Antarctica increased through the early-to-mid-Holocene, reached a peak 4,100 years ago and then decreased to the present. Climate model simulations show that these variations primarily reflect changes in maximum summer insolation, confirming the general connection between seasonal insolation and warming and demonstrating the importance of insolation intensity rather than seasonally integrated insolation or season duration2,3. Winter temperatures varied less overall, consistent with predictions from insolation forcing, but also fluctuated in the early Holocene, probably owing to changes in meridional heat transport. The magnitudes of summer and winter temperature changes constrain the lowering of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet surface since the early Holocene to less than 162 m and probably less than 58 m, consistent with geological constraints elsewhere in West Antarctica4-7.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Funding information: This work was supported by US National Science Foundation (NSF) grant nos. 0537593, 0537661, 0537930, 0539232, 1043092, 1043167, 1043518, 1142166 and 1807478. Field and logistical activities were managed by the WAIS Divide Science Coordination Office at the Desert Research Institute, Reno, NV, USA, and the University of New Hampshire, USA (NSF grant nos. 0230396, 0440817, 0944266 and 0944348). The NSF Division of Polar Programs funded the Ice Drilling Program Office, the Ice Drilling Design and Operations group, the National Ice Core Laboratory, the Antarctic Support Contractor and the 109th New York Air National Guard. K.M.C. was supported by The Martin Family Foundation. W.H.G.R. was funded by a Leverhulme Trust Research Project Grant. HadCM3 simulations were carried out using the computational facilities of the Advanced Computing Research Centre, University of Bristol ( and Oswald, University of Northumbria. M.S. was supported by the European Research Council Grant under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program (820047). We thank C. Agosta for providing the MAR outputs. We thank the Stable Isotope Lab at INSTAAR for their collective expertise in helping to measure the water-isotope datasets used in this study.
Subjects: F800 Physical and Terrestrial Geographical and Environmental Sciences
Department: Faculties > Engineering and Environment > Geography and Environmental Sciences
Depositing User: Rachel Branson
Date Deposited: 24 Jan 2023 14:50
Last Modified: 24 Jan 2023 15:00

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