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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  29 Jan 2020

29 Jan 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal ESSD.

A global mean sea-surface temperature dataset for the Last Interglacial (129–116 kyr) and contribution of thermal expansion to sea-level change

Chris S. M. Turney1,2, Richard Jones3, Nicholas P. McKay4, Erik van Sebille5,6, Zoë A. Thomas1,2, Claus-Dieter Hillenbrand7, and Christopher J. Fogwill1,8 Chris S. M. Turney et al.
  • 1Palaeontology, Geobiology and Earth Archives Research Centre, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Australia
  • 2ARC Centre of Excellence in Australian Biodiversity and Heritage, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Australia
  • 3Department of Geography, Exeter University, Devon, EX4 4RJ, UK
  • 4School of Earth and Sustainability, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona 86011, USA
  • 5Grantham Institute & Department of Physics, Imperial College London, London, UK
  • 6Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research Utrecht, Utrecht University, Utrecht, the Netherlands
  • 7British Antarctic Survey, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0ET, UK
  • 8School of Geography, Geology and the Environment, Keele University, ST5 5BG, UK

Abstract. A valuable analogue for assessing Earth’s sensitivity to warming is the Last Interglacial (LIG; 129–116 kyr), when global temperatures (0−+2 °C) and mean sea level (+6–11 m) were higher than today. The direct contribution of warmer conditions to global sea level (thermosteric) are uncertain. We report here a global network of LIG sea surface temperatures (SST) obtained from various published temperature proxies (e.g. faunal/floral assemblages, Mg/Ca ratios of calcareous plankton, alkenone UK’37). Each reconstruction is averaged across the LIG (anomalies relative to 1981–2010), corrected for ocean drift and with varying seasonality (189 annual, 99 December-February, and 92 June–August records). We summarise the current limitations of SST reconstructions for the LIG and the spatial temperature features of a naturally warmer world. Because of local δ18O seawater changes, uncertainty in the age models of marine cores, and differences in sampling resolution and/or sedimentation rates, the reconstructions are restricted to mean conditions. To avoid bias towards individual LIG SSTs based on only a single (and potentially erroneous) measurement or a single interpolated data point, here we average across the entire LIG. To investigate the sensitivity of the reconstruction to high temperatures, we also report maximum values during the first 5 ka of the LIG (129–124 kyr). The global dataset provides a remarkably coherent pattern of higher SST increases at polar latitudes than in the tropics, with comparable estimates between different SST proxies. We report mean global annual SST anomalies of 0.2 ± 0.1 °C and a maximum of 0.9 ± 0.2 °C respectively. Using the reconstructed SSTs suggests a mean thermosteric sea level rise of 0.01 ± 0.1 m and a maximum of 0.13 ± 0.1 m respectively. The data provide an important natural baseline for a warmer world, constraining the contributions of Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets to global sea level during a geographically widespread expression of high sea level, and can be used to test the next inter-comparison of models for projecting future climate change. The dataset described in this paper, including summary temperature and thermosteric sea-level reconstructions, are available at (Turney et al., 2019).

Chris S. M. Turney et al.

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Chris S. M. Turney et al.

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A global reconstruction of sea-surface temperatures for the Last Interglacial (129-116 kyr). C. S. M. Turney, R. Jones, N. McKay, E. Van Sebille, Z. Thomas, C.-D. Hillenbrand, and C. Fogwill

Chris S. M. Turney et al.


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Short summary
Here we report the first iteration of a new comprehensive global sea surface temperature database for the Last Interglacial (129–116 kyr). From the new dataset we have been able to determine zonal and global temperature averages with a maximum global warming of 0.9 ± 0.2 °C in the early interglacial. Our database suggests an upper limit of 0.13 ± 0.1 m for the role of thermal expansion in global sea level rise, implying a a greater contribution from polar ice sheets than hitherto supposed.
Here we report the first iteration of a new comprehensive global sea surface temperature...