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Climate Evolution Through the Onset and Intensification of Northern Hemisphere Glaciation

McClymont, E.L.; Ho, S.-L.; Ford, H.L.; Bailey, I.; Berke, M.A.; Bolton, C.T.; De Schepper, S.; Grant, G.R.; Groeneveld, J.; Inglis, G.N.; Karas, C.; Patterson, M.O.; Swann, G.E.A.; Thirumalai, K.; White, S.M.; Alonso-Garcia, M.; Anand, P.; Hoogakker, B.A.A.; Littler, K.; Petrick, B.F.; Risebrobakken, B.; Abell, J.T.; Crocker, A.J.; de Graaf, F.; Feakins, S.J.; Hargreaves, J.C.; Jones, C.L.; Markowska, M.; Ratnayake, A.S.; Stepanek, C.; Tangunan, D.

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S.-L. Ho

H.L. Ford

I. Bailey

M.A. Berke

C.T. Bolton

S. De Schepper

G.R. Grant

J. Groeneveld

G.N. Inglis

C. Karas

M.O. Patterson

G.E.A. Swann

K. Thirumalai

S.M. White

M. Alonso-Garcia

P. Anand

B.A.A. Hoogakker

K. Littler

B.F. Petrick

B. Risebrobakken

J.T. Abell

A.J. Crocker

F. de Graaf

S.J. Feakins

J.C. Hargreaves

C.L. Jones

M. Markowska

A.S. Ratnayake

C. Stepanek

D. Tangunan


The Pliocene Epoch (~5.3-2.6 million years ago, Ma) was characterized by a warmer than present climate with smaller Northern Hemisphere ice sheets, and offers an example of a climate system in long-term equilibrium with current or predicted near-future atmospheric CO2 concentrations (pCO2). A long-term trend of ice-sheet expansion led to more pronounced glacial (cold) stages by the end of the Pliocene (~2.6 Ma), known as the “intensification of Northern Hemisphere Glaciation” (iNHG). We assessed the spatial and temporal variability of ocean temperatures and ice-volume indicators through the late Pliocene and early Pleistocene (from 3.3 to 2.4 Ma) to determine the character of this climate transition. We identified asynchronous shifts in long-term means and the pacing and amplitude of shorter-term climate variability, between regions and between climate proxies. Early changes in Antarctic glaciation and Southern Hemisphere ocean properties occurred even during the mid-Piacenzian warm period (~3.264- 3.025 Ma) which has been used as an analogue for future warming. Increased climate variability subsequently developed alongside signatures of larger Northern Hemisphere ice sheets (iNHG). Yet, some regions of the ocean felt no impact of iNHG, particularly in lower latitudes. Our analysis has demonstrated the complex, non-uniform and globally asynchronous nature of climate changes associated with the iNHG. Shifting ocean gateways and ocean circulation changes may have pre-conditioned the later evolution of ice sheets with falling atmospheric pCO2. Further development of high-resolution, multi-proxy reconstructions of climate is required so that the full potential of the rich and detailed geological records can be realized.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 27, 2023
Online Publication Date Jun 14, 2023
Publication Date 2023-09
Deposit Date Apr 28, 2023
Publicly Available Date Apr 28, 2023
Journal Reviews of Geophysics
Print ISSN 8755-1209
Electronic ISSN 1944-9208
Publisher American Geophysical Union
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 61
Issue 3
Article Number e2022RG000793
Public URL


Accepted Journal Article (12.9 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2023. The Authors.

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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