Paris, 1er September 2013

Polar ice sheet formation : paradox solved

The beginning of the last glacial period was characterized in the Northern hemisphere by significant accumulation of snow at high latitudes and the formation of a huge polar ice sheet. For climatologists this was paradoxical, since snowfall is always associated with high humidity and relatively moderate temperatures. Now, a French team coordinated by María-Fernanda Sánchez-Goñi, a researcher at EPHE1 working in the 'Oceanic and Continental Environments and Paleoenvironments' Laboratory (CNRS/Universités Bordeaux 1 & 4)2 has solved this paradox. By analyzing sediment cores dating back 80,000 to 70,000 years, the researchers have shown that during that period, water temperatures in the Bay of Biscay remained relatively high, whereas those in mainland Europe gradually fell. Carried northwards by wind, the humidity released by this thermal contrast appears to have caused the snowfall that formed the polar ice sheet. This work was published on the Nature Geoscience website on 1 September 2013.

To download the press release : Polar ice sheet


1 Ecole pratique des hautes études
2 In collaboration with the European Center for Research and Teaching in Environmental Geosciences (Aix-Marseille Université/CNRS/IRD/Collège de France), Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement (CEA/CNRS/UVSQ) and the 'De la préhistoire à l'actuel : culture, environnement et anthropologie' Laboratory (CNRS/Université Bordeaux 1/Ministère de la culture et de la communication/INRAP).


Air-sea temperature decoupling in Western Europe during the last interglacial/glacial transition
María-Fernanda Sánchez-Goñi, Edouard Bard, Amaelle Landais, Linda Rossignol, Francesco d'Errico.
Nature Geoscience, 1 September 2013. DOI : 10.1038/ngeo1924


Researcher l María-Fernanda Sánchez-Goñi
T +33 5 40 00 83 84 l
CNRS Press Office l Priscilla Dacher
T +33 1 44 96 46 06 l


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