Glacial-interglacial climates of the Pleistocene

Contact: Dr. Henning Bauch

                Dr. Evgeniya Kandiano

Since the onset of the Holocene about 10,000 years ago the earth is characterized by warm, so-called interglacial climate conditions with continental ice sheets being limited to the polar regions of both hemispheres. Due to the strong influence of the Gulf Stream Middle and Northern Europe currently show unusually high mean temperatures when compared to the conditions during the past 500,000 years (Fig. 1). 

During the Pleistocene the global climate was characterized by the rhythmic change between cold glacial and stadial periods with extended ice sheets in the Northern Hemisphere and some warm interglacial climate periods (Fig. 2). The specific environmental conditions of the high northern latitudes during these warm and cold periods were investigated in the framework of several projects funded by the German Science Foundation in order to better characterize glacial-interglacial climate modes (see also: Glacial-Interglacial Climates, pdf file). 


A number of new insights were obtained: Regional differences of interglacial climate in the subpolar and polar North Atlantic became obvious. During the past 450,000 years the polar sector was characterized by only 3 pronounced warm periods, whereas interglacial climates occurred more frequently in the subpolar regions. Moreover, in the Northern Hemisphere a clear intensification of glacial and interglacial conditions during the course of the so-called mid-Pleistocene Revolution (MPR) is indicated (Fig. 2).


Bauch H.A. and Erlenkeuser H. (2003) Interpreting glacial-interglacial changes in ice volume and climate from subarctic deep water foraminiferal δ18O. In: Earth's Climate and Orbital Eccentricity: The Marine Isotope Stage 11 Question, edited by Droxler A.W., Poore R.Z., Burckle L.H.. American Geophysical Union Monograph Series, Washington, D. C., 137, 87-102. 
Bauch H.A., Erlenkeuser, H., Fahl, K., Spielhagen, R.F., Weinelt, M.S., Andruleit, H. and Henrich, R. (1999) Evidence for a steeper Eemian than Holocene sea surface temperature gradient between Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 145, 95-117. 
Bauch H.A., Erlenkeuser H., Helmke J.P. and J. Thiede (2000) A Paleoclimatic Evaluation of Marine Oxygen Isotope Stage 11 in the high-northern North Atlantic (Nordic Seas). Global and Planetary Change, 24 (1), 27-39. 
Helmke J.P. and H.A. Bauch (2002) Glacial-interglacial carbonate preservation records in the Nordic Seas. Global and Planetary Change, 33, 15-28. 
Helmke J.P. and H.A. Bauch (2003) Comparison of conditions between the polar and subpolar North Atlantic region over the last five climate cycles. Paleoceanography, 18 (2), 1036, doi:10.1029/2002PA000794. 
Helmke J.P., Bauch H.A. and H. Erlenkeuser (2003) Development of glacial and interglacial climate conditions in the Nordic seas between 1.5 and 0.35 Ma. Quaternary Science Reviews, 22, 1717-1728. 
Helmke J.P., Bauch H.A., Röhl U. and A. Mazaud (2005) Changes in sedimentation patterns of the Nordic seas region across the Mid-Pleistocene. Marine Geology, 215, 107-122. 
Kandiano E.S. and H.A. Bauch (2003) Surface ocean temperatures in the Northeast Atlantic during the last 500,000 years: Evidence from foraminiferal census data. Terra Nova, 4, 265-271. 
Kandiano E.S., Bauch H.A. and A. Müller (2004) Sea surface temperature variability in the North Atlantic during the last two glacial-interglacial cycles: Comparison of faunal, oxygen isotopic and Mg/Ca-derived records Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 204 (1-2), 145-164.