Figure 14: 800,000 Years of Temperature and Carbon Dioxide Records

Click the image to view and download the full-size version.

As ice core records from Vostok, Antarctica, show, the temperature near the South Pole has varied by as much as 20°F (11°C) during the past 800,000 years. The cyclical pattern of temperature variations constitutes the ice age/interglacial cycles. During these cycles, changes in carbon dioxide concentrations (in red) track closely with changes in temperature (in blue), with CO2 lagging behind temperature changes. Because it takes a while for snow to compress into ice, ice core data are not yet available much beyond the 18th century at most locations. However, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, as measured in air, are higher today than at any time during the past 800,000 years. Source: National Research Council, 2010a

Source 1 for top image: Lüthi, D., M. Le Floch, B. Bereiter, T. Blunier, J.-M. Barnola, U. Siegenthaler, D. Raynaud, J. Jouzel, H. Fischer, K. Kawamura, and T. F. Stocker. 2008. High-resolution carbon dioxide concentration record 650,000-800,000 years before present. Nature 453(7193):379-382, doi: 10.1038/nature06949.

Source 2 for bottom image: Jouzel, J., V. Masson-Delmotte, O. Cattani, G. Dreyfus, S. Falourd, G. Hoffmann, B. Minster, J. Nouet, J. M. Barnola, J. Chappellaz, H. Fischer, J. C. Gallet, S. Johnson, M. Leuenberger, L. Loulergue, D. Luethi, H. Oerter, F. Parrenin, G. Raisbeck, D. Raynaud, A. Schilt, J. Schwander, E. Selmo, R. Souchez, R. Spahni, B. Stauffer, J. P. Steffensen, B. Stenni, T. F. Stocker, J. L. Tison, M. Werner, and E. W. Wolff. 2007. Orbital and millennial Antarctic climate variability over the past 800,000 years. Science 317(5839):793-797.

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