Except a hypothesized orbital forcing! Ice cores shows that there are several irregular sharp temperature peaks in between of the big 100,000 years glaciations. What could cause those peaks?

Almost all energy excess is stored in the oceans and common sense says that there have to be a threshold for how much energy the oceans can take up without drastically changing the climate. There are two possibilities: either there is a turn to cooling down the oceans or there isn't.

Could the energy from the oceans take over the climate system totally for a time long enough to be cooled down? Could the energy from the oceans, if big enough cause global storms independent of the insolation? Convective clouds transport warm vapor high up in troposphere where condensation release an enormous amount of energy - mostly as heat energy that spreads from there. Could a global cover of convective clouds be maintained entirely by the ocean heat content, if big enough?

enter image description here

In the diagram, there is a well defined peek about 50,000 years ago, for example. Sudden up and sudden down. Increased insolation (or something else) caused a sudden warming, that "immediately" turned back. Could it have been caused by a long time of storms and convection?

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    $\begingroup$ Milhankovic cycles cause those peaks as a partial answer. $\endgroup$
    – user12525
    May 23, 2019 at 10:51
  • $\begingroup$ @Universal_learner: Ice core shows a lot of remarkable peaks that isn't periodical at all, so there must be further mechanisms involved in the peaks. $\endgroup$
    – Lehs
    May 23, 2019 at 13:06
  • $\begingroup$ Ice is a system that reacts to changes in raditaion due to Milhankovic cycles and Earth sometimes need some time to adaptate to new physical conditions. You can take a look at Heinrich Events to explain sudden changes on Earth's climate. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heinrich_event Maybe if you show us a graph we can associate the peaks to events on Pleistocene. $\endgroup$
    – user12525
    May 23, 2019 at 13:33
  • $\begingroup$ @Lehs I've made some edits to tidy up the English in the question, where I could clearly see the intent. However, there are some parts where I'm really not sure what you're trying to say. You may need to clarify what you mean to get good answers. $\endgroup$ May 23, 2019 at 17:03

2 Answers 2


Pleistocene's climate variations are well correlated with Milhankovitch Cycles.

"Variations in eccentricity, axial tilt, and precession of the Earth's orbit resulted in cyclical variation in the solar radiation reaching the Earth, and that this orbital forcing strongly influenced climatic patterns on Earth."

Source: Milhankovitch Cycles, Wikipedia

At this graph you can see eccentricity explains major Oxygen $δ18$ variations at Pleistocene oceans. $δ18$ is a known proxy for temperature.

enter image description here

Source: euanmearns.com

The minor peaks are Earth's internal forces reaction to changes on solar radiation. Earth has subsystems that store and interchange the energy received from the Sun, resulting oscillatory climate tendencies.

Aswell as the atmospere and the hydrosphere, cryosphere has internal forces as a subsystem; and oscillatory events (development of ice-break of ice). One example of punctual changes due to cryosphere internal forces dynamics are Heinrich Events, that can influence climate at minor scale than eccentricity does and be correlated with some of the peaks your graph shows.


The abrupt rise then slower decay argues for some sort of tipping point event. While the Milhankovich cycles may be the driving force, they are to first approximation sinusoidal.

One candidate for this could be a methane pulse. E.g. you get warm enough to thaw the arctic permafrost, and while the heat seeps in you get a continuous source of methane. If ocean temps get warm enough clathrate methane is released. This is happening off of the north Siberian coast now. Magnitude of this is up in the air, but the potential for gigatons is there.

I don't think that methane by itself has a long enough residence time, but once past a threshold, it may trigger further releases in a rapid positive feedback loop.

So the Milhankovich cycle warms the arctic a bit. Passes a tipping point, methane is released starting a feedback loop releasing more and more methane, warming the earth rapidly by 10 degrees. Methane release tapers off as the heat has to soak in deeper and deeper to be effective at further releases.

If you wanted to check this, check the phase of the Milhankovich forcing to the temperature. This notion is more plausible if there is substantial forcing for the northern hemisphere before the temperature spike occurs.

  • $\begingroup$ Could use some references... $\endgroup$ May 27, 2019 at 19:31
  • $\begingroup$ Could. But I'm not a research service. Answers here are meant to give people leads to do their own research. $\endgroup$ May 29, 2019 at 12:37

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