OXYGEN isotope measurements in Greenland ice demonstrate that a series of rapid warm-cold oscillations-called Dansgaard-Oeschger events-punctuated the last glaciation1. Here we present records of sea surface temperature from North Atlantic sediments spanning the past 90 kyr which contain a series of rapid temperature oscillations closely matching those in the ice-core record, confirming predictions that the ocean must bear the imprint of the Dansgaard-Oeschger events2,3. Moreover, we show that between 20 and 80 kyr ago, the shifts in ocean-atmosphere temperature are bundled into cooling cycles, lasting on average 10 to 15 kyr, with asymmetrical saw-tooth shapes. Each cycle culminated in an enormous discharge of icebergs into the North Atlantic (a 'Heinrich event'4,5), followed by an abrupt shift to a warmer climate. These cycles document a previously unrecognized link between ice sheet behaviour and ocean-atmosphere temperature changes. An important question that remains to be resolved is whether the cycles are driven by external factors, such as orbital forcing, or by internal ice-sheet dynamics.
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