Potential and limitations of marine and ice core sea ice proxies: an example from the Indian Ocean sector

Regine Röthlisberger*, Xavier Crosta, Nerilie J. Abram, Leanne Armand, Eric W. Wolff

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


Diatom assemblages in marine cores and sea salt deposition fluxes in ice cores have been used as sea ice proxies in the southern hemisphere. Here, a marine and an ice core proxy record for the Indian Ocean covering the last two glacial cycles are compared in order to illustrate their potential and limitations. The marine core was extracted in a location completely ice free under present-day conditions, and therefore was unable to record changes to the recent sea ice extent. Similarly, no sea ice was recorded at that location during the previous interglacial period. During the last glacial period, however, the site was seasonally covered by sea ice, and the diatom assemblages allowed an estimation of average seasonal sea ice presence. The ice core data originated from the East Antarctic plateau. The marine sodium present in the ice core was used as a proxy of the sea-ice coverage and, on average, a larger sea ice surface led to an increased sea-salt aerosol flux, seen e.g. at the last glacial inception. However, the response of the sea salt flux to increasing sea ice extent diminished during peak glacial conditions when only minimal variability was recorded in the ice core record. A first-order approximation is used to take this non-linear response of the ice core sea ice proxy into account. Based on the ice core proxy record, sea ice extent was reduced considerably during the warm episodes of the previous two interglacial periods compared to modern sea ice extent, in particular during the peak warmth of the Last Interglacial. The ice core proxy also showed a very strong precessional variability (pronounced spectral peak at 23 ka period) over the past 240 ka. The advantage of combining the two proxy records lies in the complementary nature of their response. While the ice core proxy showed limited sensitivity during full glacial conditions, the marine proxy recorded the seasonal sea-ice coverage. Once the sea ice retreated south of the location of the marine core, the ice core proxy responded to changes in sea ice extent. A composite of marine and ice core records may thus provide a data basis for a more detailed reconstruction of sea ice around Antarctica over the last few glacial-interglacial cycles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)296-302
Number of pages7
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2010
Externally publishedYes


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