Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

The two-step shape and timing of the last deglaciation in Antarctica


The two-step character of the last deglaciation is well recognized in Western Europe, in Greenland and in the North Atlantic. For example, in Greenland, a gradual temperature decrease started at the Bölling (B) around 14.5 ky BP, spanned through the Alleröd (A) and was followed by the cold Younger Dryas (YD) event which terminated abruptly around 11.5 ky BP. Recent results suggest that this BA/YD sequence may have extended throughout all the Northern Hemisphere but the evidence of a late transition cooling is still poor for the Southern Hemisphere. Here we present a detailed isotopic record analyzed in a new ice core drilled at Dome B in East Antarctica that fully demonstrates the existence of an Antarctic cold reversal (ACR). These results suggest that the two-step shape of the last deglaciation has a worldwide character but they also point to noticeable interhemispheric differences. Thus, the coldest part of the ACR, which shows a temperature drop about three times weaker than that recorded during the YD in Greenland, may have preceded the YD. Antarctica did not experienced abrupt changes and the two warming periods started there before they started in Greenland. The links between Southern and Northern Hemisphere climates throughout this period are discussed in the light of additional information derived from the Antarctic dust record.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Alley R, Bond G, Chappellaz J, Clapperton C, Del Genio A, Keigwin L, Peteet D (1993a) Global Younger Dryas? EOS 74: 587–589

  2. Alley RB, Meese DA, Shuman CA, Gow AJ, Taylor KC, Grootes PM, White JWC, Ram M, Waddington ED, Mayewski PA, Zielinski GA (1993b) Abrupt increase in Greenland snow accumulation at the end of the Younger Dryas event. Nature 362: 527–529

  3. An ZS, Porter SC, Zhou WJ, Lu YC, Donahue DJ, Head MJ, Wu XH, Ren JZ, Zhang HB (1993) Episode of strengthened summer monsoon climate of Younger Dryas Age on the loess plateau of central China. Quat Res 39: 45–54

  4. Bard E, Arnold M, Maurice P, Duprat J, Moyes J, Duplessy JC (1987) Retreat velocity of the North Atlantic polar front during the last deglaciation determined by 14C accelerator mass spectrometry. Science 328: 791–794

  5. Bard E, Arnold M, Fairbanks RG, Hamelin B (1993) 230Th-234U and 14C ages obtained by mass spectrometry on corals. Radiocarbon 35: 191–199

  6. Bard E, Hamelin B, Fairbanks RG, Zindler A (1990a) Calibration of the 14C time scale over the past 30000 years using mass spectrometric U/Th ages from Barbados corals. Nature 345: 405–410

  7. Bard E, Labeyrie LD, Pichon JJ, Labracherie M, Arnold M, Duprat J, Moyes J, Duplessy JC (1990b) The last deglaciation in the southern and northern hemispheres: a comparison based on oxygen isotopes, sea surface temperature estimates and accelerator 14C dating from deep-sea sediments. In: Bleil U, Theide J (eds) Geological history of the polar oceans: Arctic versus Antarctic. Kluwer Academic, Boston, Mass. USA, pp 405–416

  8. Becker B, Kromer B (1993) The continental tree-ring record — absolute chronology, 14C calibration and climatic change at 11 ka. Paleogeogr Paleoclimatol, Paleoecol 103: 67–71

  9. Birchfield GE (1989) A coupled ocean-atmosphere climate model: temperature versus salinity effects on the thermohaline circulation. Clim Dyn 4: 57–71

  10. Birchfield GE, Broecker WS (1990) A salt oscillator in the glacial Atlantic? A “scale analysis” model. Paleoceanography 5: 835–843

  11. Boyle EA, Keigwin LD (1987) North Atlantic thermohaline circulation during the past 20000 years linked to high-latitude surface temperature. Nature 330: 35–40

  12. Broecker W (1989) Salinity history of the North Atlantic during the last deglaciation, Paleocenography 5: 459–463

  13. Broecker WS, Denton GH (1989) The role of ocean-atmosphere reorganizations in glacial cycles. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 2465–2501

  14. Broecker WS, Peteet DM, Rind D (1985) Does the ocean-atmosphere system have more than one mode of operation? Nature 315: 21–26

  15. Broecker WS, Kennett JP, Flower BP, Teller JT, Trumbore S, Bonani G, Wolfli W (1989) Routing of meltwater from the Laurentide Ice Sheet during the Younger Dryas cold episode. Nature 341: 318–321

  16. Broecker WS, Bond G, Klas M, Bonani G, Wolfli W (1990) A salt oscillator in the glacial Atlantic? 1. The concept. Paleoceanography 5: 469–477

  17. Chappellaz J, Barnola JM, Raynaud D, Korotkevich YS, Lorius C (1990) Ice core record of atmospheric methane over the past 160 000 years. Nature 345: 127–131

  18. Chappellaz J, Blunier T, Raynaud D, Barnola JM, Schwander J, Stauffer B (1993) Synchronous changes in atmospheric CH4 and Greenland climate between 40 and 8 ky BP. Nature 366: 443–445

  19. Charles C, Fairbanks R (1992) Evidence from Southern Ocean sediments for the effect of North Atlantic deep-water flux on climate. Nature 355: 416–419

  20. Ciais P, Petit JR, Jouzel J, Lorius C, Barkov NI, Lipenkov V, Nicolaïev V (1992) Evidence for an early Holocene climate optimum in the Antarctic deep ice core record. Clim Dyn 6: 169–177

  21. Cragin JH, Herron MM, Langway CCJ, Klouda G (1977) Interhemispheric comparison of changes in composition of atmospheric precipitation during the late Cenozoic era. In: Dunbar MJ (ed) Arctic polar oceans. Institute of North America, Calgary, Canada, pp 617–631

  22. Crowley TJ (1992) North Atlantic deepwater cools the Southern Hemisphere. Paleoceanography 7, 4: 489–497

  23. Crowley TJ, Kim KY (1994) Milankovitch forcing of the last interglacial sea-level. Science 265: 1566–1568

  24. Dansgaard W, White JW, Johnsen SJ (1989) The abrupt termination of the Younger Dryas climate event. Nature 339: 532–534

  25. de Deckker P, Corrège T, Head J (1991) Late Pleistocene record of cyclic eolian activity from tropical australia suggesting the Younger Dryas is not an unusual climatic event. Geology 19: 602–605

  26. Delmas RJ, Petit JR (1994) Present Antarctic aerosol composition: a memory of ice age atmospheric dust? Geophys Res Lett 21: 879–882

  27. Denton GH, Hendy CH (1994) Younger Dryas age advance of Franz Josef glacier in the Southern Alps of New Zealand. Science 264: 1434–1437

  28. Duplessy JC, Labeyrie L, Arnold M, Paterne M, Duprat J, Van Weering TCE (1992) North Atlantic sea surface salinity and abrupt climate changes. Nature 358: 485–488

  29. Engstrom DR, Hansen BCS, Wright HE (1990) A possible Younger Dryas record in southeastern Alaska. Science 250: 1383–1385

  30. Fairbanks RG (1989) A 17 000 year glacio-eustatic sea level record: influence of glacial melting rates on the Younger Dryas event and deep ocean circulation. Nature 342: 637–642

  31. Fairbanks RG (1990) The age and origin of the “Younger Dryas climatic event” in Greenland ice cores. Paleoceanography 5: 937–948

  32. Flower BP, Kennet JP (1990) The Younger Dryas cool episode in the Gulf of Mexico. Paleoceanography 5–6: 949–961

  33. Gasse F, Ledée V, Massault M, Fontes JC (1989) Water-level fluctuations of Lake Tanganika in phase with oceanic changes during the last glaciation and deglaciation. Nature 342: 57–59

  34. Gasse F, Arnold M, Fontes JC, Fort M, Gibert E, Huc A, Bingyan LI, Yuanfang Li, Liu Qing, Mélières F, Van Campo E, Fubao Wang, Qingson Zhang (1991) A 13 000 year climate record from western Tibet. Nature 353: 742–745

  35. Genthon C, Barnola JM, Raynaud D, Lorius C, Jouzel J, Barkov NI, Korotkevich YS, Kotlyakov VM (1987) Vostok ice core: climatic response to CO2 and orbital forcing changes over the last climatic cycle. Nature 329: 414–418

  36. GRIP project members (1993) Climatic instability during the last interglacial period revealed in the Greenland summit ice-core. Nature 364: 203–207

  37. Grootes PM, Stuiver M, White JWC, Johnsen SJ, Jouzel J (1993) Comparison of the oxygen isotope records from the GISP2 and GRIP Greenland ice cores. Nature 366: 552–554

  38. Grousset FE, Biscaye PE, Revel M, Petit JR, Pye K, Joussaume S, Jouzel J (1992) Antarctic ice core dust at 18 ky BP: isotopic constraints on origin and atmospheric circulation, Earth Planet Sci Lett 111: 175–182

  39. Hadjas I, Ivy SD, Beer J, Bonani G, Imboden D, Lotter AF, Sturm M, Suter M (1993) AMS radiocarbon dating and varve chronology of Lake Soppensee: 6000 to 12000 y BP. Clim Dyn 9: 107–116

  40. Hammer CU, Clausen HB, Langway CCJ (1994) ECM stratigraphic dating of the Byrd station ice core. Ann Glaciol, Vol 20, 115–120, 1994

  41. Heusser CJ (1989) Late Quaternary vegetation and climate of southern Tierra del Fuego. Quat Res 31: 396–406

  42. Heusser CJ, Rabassa J (1987) Cold climatic episode of Younger Dryas age in Tierra del Fuego. Nature 328: 609–611

  43. Imbrie J, Boyle EA, Clemens SC, Duffy A, Howard WR, Kukla G, Kutzbach J, Martinson DG, McIntyre A, Mix AC, Molfino B, Morley JJ, Peterson LC, Pisias NG, Prell WL, Raymo ME, Shackleton NJ, Toggweiller JR (1992) On the structure and origin of major glaciation cycles. 1. Linear responses to Milankovich forcing. Paleoceanography 7: 701–738

  44. Iversen J (1954) The late glacial flora of Denmark and its relation to climate and soils. Dan Geol Unders 80: 87–119

  45. Jansen E, Veum T (1990) Evidence for two-step deglaciation and its impact on North Atlantic deep water circulation. Nature 343: 612–616

  46. Jensen K (1938) Some west Baltic pollen diagrams. Quatar 1: 124–139

  47. Johnsen SJ, Dansgaard W, Clausen HB, Langway CC (1972) Oxygen isotope profiles through the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets. Nature 235: 429–434

  48. Johnsen SJ, Clausen HB, Dansgaard W, Fuhrer K, Gunderstrup NS, Hammer CU, Iverssen P, Jouzel J, Stauffer B, Steffensen JP (1992) Irregular glacial interstadials recorded in a new Greenland ice core. Nature 359: 311–313

  49. Jones GA (1991a) Spatial and temporal distribution of Laurentide and Fennoscandian meltwater during the last deglaciation. Nor Geol Tidsskr 71: 145–148

  50. Jones GA (1991b) A stop-start ocean conveyor. Nature 349: 364–365

  51. Jouzel J, Lorius C, Merlivat L, Petit JR (1987a) Abrupt climatic changes: the Antarctic ice record during the late Pleistocene. In: Berger WH, Labeyrie LD (eds) Abrupt climatic change: evidence and implications. D. Reidel, Dordrecht, pp 235–245

  52. Jouzel J, Lorius C, Petit JR, Genthon C, Barkov NI, Kotlyakov VM, Petrov VM (1987b) Vostok ice core: a continuous isotope temperature record over the last climatic cycle (160 000 years). Nature 329: 402–408

  53. Jouzel J, Raisbeck GM, Benoist JP, Yiou F, Lorius C, Raynaud D, Petit JR, Barkov NI, Korotkevitch YS, Kotlyakov VM (1989) A comparison of deep Antarctic ice cores and their implications for climate between 65 000 and 15 000 years ago. Quat Res 31: 135–150

  54. Jouzel J, Petit JR, Barkov NI, Barnola JM, Chappelaz J, Ciais P, Kotlyakov VM, Lorius C, Petrov N, Raynaud D, Ritz C (1992) The last deglaciation in Antarctica: evidence for a “Younger Dryas” type climatic Event. In: Bard E, Broecker WS (eds) Absolute and radiocarbon chronologies. NATO ASI Series, Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 229–266

  55. Jouzel J, Barkov NI, Barnola JM, Bender M, Chappelaz J, Genthon C, Kotlyakov VM, Lipenkov V, Lorius C, Petit JR, Raynaud D, Raisbeck G, Ritz C, Sowers T, Stievenard M, Yiou F, Yiou P (1993) Extending the Vostok ice-core record of paleoclimate to the penultimate glacial period. Nature 364: 407–412

  56. Kallel N, Labeyrie LD, Arnold M, Okada H, Dudley WC, Duplessy JC (1988) Evidence of cooling during the Younger Dryas in the western North Pacific. Oceanol Acta 11: 369–375

  57. Keigwin LD, Jones GA (1990) Deglacial climatic oscillations in the Gulf of California. Paleoceanography 5–6: 1009–1023

  58. Kromer B, Becker B (1992) Tree-ring 14C calibration at 10000 BP. In: Bard E, Broecker WS (eds) Absolute and radiocarbon chronologies. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 313

  59. Kudrass HR, Erlenkeuser H, Volbretch R, Wiess W (1991) Global nature of the Younger Dryas cooling event inferred from oxygen isotope data in the Sulu sea. Nature 349: 406–409

  60. Labracherie M, Labeyrie LD, Duprat J, Bard E, Arnold M, Pichon JJ, Duplessy JC (1989) The last deglaciation in the Southern Ocean. Paleoceanography 4: 629–638

  61. Legrand M (1985) Chimie des neiges et glaces Antarctiques: un reflet de l'environnement. Ph D Thesis, Grenoble, France

  62. Lehman SJ, Keigwin LD (1992) Sudden changes in North Atlantic circulation during the last deglaciation. Nature 356: 757–762

  63. Lehman SJ, Jones GA, Keigwin LD, Andersen ES, Butenko G, Ostmo SR (1991) Initiation of Fennoscandian ice-sheet retreat during the last deglaciation. Nature 349: 513–516

  64. Levesque AJ, Mayle FE, Walker IR, Cwynar LS (1993) A previously unrecognized late-glacial event eastern North America. Nature 361: 623–626

  65. Linsley BK, Thunnell RC (1990) Evidence for the Younger Dryas event in the tropical western Pacific. Paleoceanography 5–6: 1025–1039

  66. Lorius C, Merlivat L, Jouzel J, Pourchet M (1979) A 30 000 y isotope climatic record from Antarctic ice. Nature 280: 644–648

  67. Lorius C, Jouzel J, Ritz C, Merlivat L, Barkov NI, Korotkevitch YS, Kotlyakov VM (1985) A 150 000-year climatic record from Antarctic ice. Nature 316: 591–596

  68. Maier-Reimer E, Mikolajewicz U (1989) Experiments with an OGCM on the cause of the Younger Dryas. In: Ayala-Castanares WW, Ayala-Castanares AYA (eds) Oceanography. UNAM Press, pp 87–100

  69. Markgraf V (1991) Younger Dryas in South America. Boreas 8

  70. Markgraf V (1993) Younger Dryas in Southern America — an update. Quat Sci Rev 12: 351–355

  71. Mayewski PA, Meeker LD, Whitlow S, Twickler MS, Morrison MC, Alley RB, Bloomfield P, Taylor K (1993) The atmosphere during the Younger Dryas, Science 261: 195–197

  72. Overpeck JT, Peterson LC, Kipp N, Imbrie J, Rind D (1989) Climate change in the circum — North Atlantic region during the last deglaciation. Nature 338: 553–557

  73. Rind D, Peteet D, Broecker W, McIntyre A, Ruddiman W (1986) The impact of cold North Atlantic sea surface temperatures on climate implications for the Younger Dryas cooling. Chim Dyn 1: 3–33

  74. Ritz C (submitted) Chronology of the Vostok ice core based on precipitation and ice flow modelling. J of Glaciology

  75. Roberts N, Taieb M, Barker P, Brahim D, Icole M, Williamson D (1993) Timing of the Younger Dryas event in East Africa from lake-level changes. Nature 366: 146–148

  76. Robin GdQ (1977) Ice cores and climatic changes. Philos Trans R Soc London 280: 143–168

  77. Rozanski K, Goslar T, Dulinski M, Kuc T, Pazdur MF, Walanus A (1992) The late glacial-Holocene transition in laminated sediments of lake Gosciaz (central Poland). In: Bard E, Broecker WS (eds) Absolute and radiocarbon chronologies. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 69–80

  78. Ruddiman A, McIntyre A (1981) The north Atlantic Ocean during the last deglaciation. Paleogeogr Paleoclimato Paleoecol 35: 145–214

  79. Sowers T, Bender M, Barnola JM (1992) Records of Antarctic temperature, atmospheric CO2 and ice volume during the last deglaciation. EOS Suppl AGU Fall Meeting Abstr: 260

  80. Sowers T, Bender M, Labeyrie LD, Jouzel J, Raynaud D, Martinson DG, Korotkevich YS (1993) 135 000 year Vostok-SPEC-MAP common temporal framework. Paleoceanography 8: 737–766

  81. Stocker TF, Wright DG (1991) Rapid transitions of the ocean's deep circulation induced by changes in surface water fluxes. Nature 351: 729–732

  82. Street-Perrott FA, Perrott RA (1990) Abrupt climate fluctuations in the tropics: the influence of Atlantic ocean circulation. Nature 343: 607–612

  83. Taylor KC, Lamorey GW, Doyle GA, Alley RB, Grootes PM, Mayewski PA, White JWC, Barlow LK (1993) The “flickering switch” of late Pleitocene climate change. Nature 361: 432–436

  84. Togweiller JR, Samuels B (1993) Is the magnitude of the deep outflow from the Atlantic Ocean actually governed by Southern Hemisphere winds. In The Global carbon cycle, NATO ASI Series Vol 115. Edited by M. Heimann,eds Springer-Verlag, Berlin Heidelberg, pp 303–331, 1993

  85. Veum T, Jansen E, Arnold M, Beyer J, Duplessy JC (1992) Water mass exchange between the north Atlantic and the Norwegian Sea during the last 28 000 years. Nature 356: 783–785

  86. Wright DG, Stocker TF (1993) Younger Dryas experiments. In: Peltier WR (ed) Ice in the climate system. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 395–416

  87. Zahn R (1992) Deep ocean circulation puzzle. Nature 356: 744–746

Download references

Author information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Jouzel, J., Vaikmae, R., Petit, J.R. et al. The two-step shape and timing of the last deglaciation in Antarctica. Climate Dynamics 11, 151–161 (1995). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00223498

Download citation


  • Dust
  • Northern Hemisphere
  • Southern Hemisphere
  • Late Transition
  • Warming Period