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The Penultimate Interglacial Period


End

Penultimate Interglacial Period
ca. 125,000 Years Ago

We are in the current "Holocene" interglacial which began about 10,000 years ago. As mentioned elsewhere the middle of the Holocene was warmer than today, but generally only in the northern hemisphere and in summer. For similar reasons (changes in the Earth's orbit changing the distribution of solar radiation received on Earth), the penultimate interglacial (also commonly called the "Eemian") also had a climate different from today. In contrast to the Holocene, we have far fewer records from the Eemian interglacial because it took place about 125,000 years ago. It appears that temperatures (at least summer temperatures) were slightly warmer than today (by about 1 to 2°C), but for reasons that are well known - the changes in the Earth's orbit.
Difference of Modern Sea Temperatures - CLIMAP 1984, Map courtesy of NGDC MGG
The figure, pictured above, demonstrates the difference between modern sea surface temperature and estimated February sea surface temperature (in °C) at the last interglaciation, some 120,000 years ago. Negative values mean that the last interglacial ocean was colder than today. Note that most SST values are similar to present. Samples with more than one estimate reflect use of more than one proxy source (F = foram, R = radiolaria, C = coccolith).
For larger viewing version of map, please click here or on map. [Figure from CLIMAP, 1984. For complete scientific reference, please click here. Image map courtesy of NDGC Marine Geology and Geophysics Program.]

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Last Updated Wednesday, 20-Aug-2008 11:23:45 EDT by paleo@noaa.gov
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