A detailed Pliocene oxygen isotope record from the Ontong Java Plateau, based on measurements of the surface-dwelling planktonic foraminifer Globigerinoides sacculifer, was produced for the period from 5 to 2 Ma. The record documents major long and short-term climate changes. The results show periods of enhanced ice volume at 4.6 to 4.3 Ma and after 2.85 Ma, a long-term warming trend from 4.1 to 3.7 Ma, and a distinct cooling trend that was initiated at 3.5 Ma and progressed through the initiation of large-scale Northern Hemisphere glaciation after 2.85 Ma (according to the time scale of Shackleton and others proposed in 1990). Periods of high average ice volumes also show the highest δ 1 8 amplitudes. The pattern of climate cyclicity changed markedly at about 2.85 Ma. Earlier times were marked by high-frequency variability at the precessional frequencies or even higher frequencies, pointing to low-latitude processes as a main controlling factor driving planktonic δ 1 8 variability in this period. The high-frequency variability is not coherent with insolation and points to strong nonlinearity in the way the climate system responded to orbital forcing before the onset of large scale Northern Hemisphere glaciation. After 3 Ma, stronger 41-k.y. cyclicity appears in the record. The shift in pattern is clearest around 2.85 Ma (according to the time scale proposed by Shackleton and others in 1990), 100-200 k.y. before the most dramatic spread of Northern Hemisphere ice sheets. This indicates that high-latitude processes from this point on began to take over and influence most strongly the δ 1 8 record, which now reflects ice-volume fluctuations related to the climatic effects of obliquity forcing on the seasonality of high-latitude areas, most probably in the Northern Hemisphere. The general Pliocene trend is that high-latitude climate sensitivity and instability was increasing, and the causal factors producing the intensified glacial cyclicity during the Pliocene must be factors that enhance cooling and climate sensitivity in the subarctic areas.


Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping Affiliate

Publication Date



International Ocean Discovery Program

Journal Title

Proceedings of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program

Document Type

Conference Proceeding