Phasing and amplitude of sea-level and climate change during the penultimate interglacial

Andrea Dutton, Edouard Bard, Fabrizio Antonioli, Tezer M. Esat, Kurt Lambeck, Malcolm T. McCulloch

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Earths climate has oscillated between short-lived interglacial and extended glacial periods for the past million years. Before the last interglacial, absolutely dated markers of sea level become increasingly rare; hence, our knowledge of sea-level change driven by the waxing and waning of continental ice sheets before that time is largely based on proxy records from deep-sea cores that lack direct age control. Here we present precise U-Th ages for a remarkable collection of submerged speleothems from Italy, which record three sea-level highstands during the penultimate interglacial period, Marine Isotope Stage 7, from 245,000 to 190,000 years ago. We find that sea level rose above 18 m (relative to modern sea level) several thousand years before maximum Northern Hemisphere insolation during the first and third highstands. In contrast, the second highstand, Marine Isotope Stage 7.3, is essentially synchronous with the insolation maximum, and sea level during this highstand only peaked at about 18 m, even though the concurrent insolation forcing was the strongest of the three highstands. We attribute the different phasing and amplitude of the Marine Isotope Stage 7.3 highstand to the extensive continental glaciation that preceded it. This finding highlights the significance of cryosphere response time to the climate system. © 2009 Macmillan Publishers Limited.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)355 - 359
Number of pages5
JournalNature Geoscience
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2009
Externally publishedYes


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)

Cite this

Dutton, A., Bard, E., Antonioli, F., Esat, T. M., Lambeck, K., & McCulloch, M. T. (2009). Phasing and amplitude of sea-level and climate change during the penultimate interglacial. Nature Geoscience, 2(5), 355 - 359.