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UW Today

An international study indicates the last interglacial period more than 100,000 years ago could be a good indicator of where the planet is heading in the face of increasing greenhouse gases and warming temperatures globally.

The new results from the North Greenland Eemian Ice Drilling project, led by the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, shows that during the Eemian interglacial period 130,000 to 115,000 years ago the climate in North Greenland was about 8 degrees Celsius (14.5 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than it is now.

Despite the warmer climate during the Eemian, when seas were roughly 4 to 8 meters, or 13 to 26 feet, higher than today, the ice surface in the vicinity of the coring project was only a few hundred meters lower than its present level. That indicates the Greenland ice sheet may have contributed less than half of the total sea rise at the time.

Edwin Waddington, a University of Washington professor of Earth and space sciences, is among 133 members of the drilling project who are coauthors of a paper published Thursday (Jan. 24) in Nature, which documents the findings.