Towards Greenland Glaciation: Cumulative or Abrupt Transition?

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Ning Tan1, Gilles Ramstein1, Camille Contoux2, Jean-Baptiste Ladant1, Christophe Dumas1 and Yannick Donnadieu1, (1)LSCE Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement, Gif-Sur-Yvette Cedex, France, (2)Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, Bergen, Norway
The insolation evolution [Laskar 2004] from 4 to 2.5 Ma depicts a series of three summer solstice insolation minima between 2.7 and 2.6 Ma, but there are other more important summer solstice minima notably around 3.82 and 3.05 Ma. On such a time span of more than 1 Ma, data shows that there are variations in the evolution of atmospheric CO2 concentration with a local maximum around 3 Ma [Seki et al.2010; Bartoli et al. 2011], before a decrease between 3 and 2.6 Ma. The latter, suggesting an abrupt ice sheet inception around 2.7 Ma, has been shown to be a major culprit for the full Greenland Glaciation [Lunt et al. 2008]. However, a recent study [Contoux et al. 2014, in review] suggests that a lowering of COis not sufficient to initiate a glaciation on Greenland and must be combined to low summer insolation, with surviving ice during insolation maximum, suggesting a cumulative process in the first place, which could further lead to full glaciation at 2.7 Ma.

Through a new tri-dimensional interpolation method implemented within the asynchronous coupling between an atmosphere ocean general circulation model (IPSL-CM5A) and an ice sheet model (GRISLI), we investigate the transient evolution of Greenland ice sheet during the Pliocene to diagnose whether the ice sheet inception is an abrupt event or rather a cumulative process, involving waxing and waning of the ice sheet during several orbital cycles.


Bartoli, G., Hönisch, B., & Zeebe, R. E. (2011). Atmospheric CO2 decline during the Pliocene intensification of Northern Hemisphere glaciations. Paleoceanography, 26(4).

Contoux C, Dumas C, Ramstein G, Jost A, Dolan A. M. (2014) Modelling Greenland Ice sheet inception and sustainability during the late Pliocene. (in review for Earth and Planetary Science Letters.).

Laskar, J., Robutel, P., Joutel, F., Gastineau, M., Correia, A. C. M., & Levrard, B. (2004). A long-term numerical solution for the insolation quantities of the Earth. Astronomy & Astrophysics, 428(1), 261-285.

Lunt, D. J., Foster, G. L., Haywood, A. M., & Stone, E. J. (2008). Late Pliocene Greenland glaciation controlled by a decline in atmospheric CO2 levels. Nature, 454(7208), 1102-1105.

Seki, O., Foster, G. L., Schmidt, D. N., Mackensen et al. (2010). Alkenone and boron-based Pliocene pCO 2 records. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 292(1), 201-211.