Research ArticleEARTH SCIENCES

High-latitude warming initiated the onset of the last deglaciation in the tropics

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Science Advances  11 Dec 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 12, eaaw2610
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaw2610


Atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations are thought to have synchronized global temperatures during Pleistocene glacial–interglacial cycles, yet their impact relative to changes in high-latitude insolation and ice-sheet extent remains poorly constrained. Here, we use tropical glacial fluctuations to assess the timing of low-latitude temperature changes relative to global climate forcings. We report 10Be ages of moraines in tropical East Africa and South America and show that glaciers reached their maxima at ~29 to 20 ka, during the global Last Glacial Maximum. Tropical glacial recession was underway by 20 ka, before the rapid CO2 rise at ~18.2 ka. This “early” tropical warming was influenced by rising high-latitude insolation and coincident ice-sheet recession in both polar regions, which lowered the meridional thermal gradient and reduced tropical heat export to the high latitudes.

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