Regional and global forcing of glacier retreat during the last deglaciation

Jeremy D. Shakun, Peter U. Clark, Feng He, Nathaniel A. Lifton, Zhengyu Liu, Bette L. Otto-Bliesner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Citations (Scopus)


The ongoing retreat of glaciers globally is one of the clearest manifestations of recent global warming associated with rising greenhouse gas concentrations. By comparison, the importance of greenhouse gases in driving glacier retreat during the most recent deglaciation, the last major interval of global warming, is unclear due to uncertainties in the timing of retreat around the world. Here we use recently improved cosmogenic-nuclide production-rate calibrations to recalculate the ages of 1,116 glacial boulders from 195 moraines that provide broad coverage of retreat in mid-to-low-latitude regions. This revised history, in conjunction with transient climate model simulations, suggests that while several regional-scale forcings, including insolation, ice sheets and ocean circulation, modulated glacier responses regionally, they are unable to account for global-scale retreat, which is most likely related to increasing greenhouse gas concentrations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8059
Number of pages7
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 21 Aug 2015


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