Unraveling the dynamics of the Northern Hemisphere glaciation (NHG) in the Pliocene is a key step toward a quantitative theory of the climate transition from a greenhouse to an icehouse world. Extracting the ice volume signal from marine oxygen isotope (delta O-18) records corrupted with ``temperature noise'' can be accomplished using statistical time series analysis. We use 45 delta O-18 records from benthic and planktonic foraminifera and globally distributed sites to reconstruct the dynamics of NHG initiation. We compare delta O-18 amplitudes with those of temperature proxy records and estimate a global ice volume-related increase of 0.4%, equivalent to an overall sea level lowering of 43 m. We find the NHG started significantly earlier than previously assumed, as early as 3.6 Ma, and ended at 2.4 Ma. This long-term increase points to slow, tectonic forcing such as closing of ocean gateways or mountain building as the root cause of the NHG.
Slow dynamics of the Northern Hemisphere glaciation
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