Clim. Past, 3, 485–497, 2007
© Author(s) 2007. This work is licensed
under a Creative Commons License.
of the Past
The EDC3 chronology for the EPICA Dome C ice core
F. Parrenin1 , J.-M. Barnola1 , J. Beer2 , T. Blunier3 , E. Castellano4 , J. Chappellaz1 , G. Dreyfus5 , H. Fischer6 , S. Fujita7 ,
J. Jouzel5 , K. Kawamura8 , B. Lemieux-Dudon1 , L. Loulergue1 , V. Masson-Delmotte5 , B. Narcisi9 , J.-R. Petit1 ,
G. Raisbeck10 , D. Raynaud1 , U. Ruth6 , J. Schwander3 , M. Severi4 , R. Spahni3 , J. P. Steffensen11 , A. Svensson11 ,
R. Udisti4 , C. Waelbroeck1 , and E. Wolff12
1 Laboratoire
de Glaciologie et Géophysique de l’Environnement, CNRS and Joseph Fourier University, Grenoble, France
of Surface Waters, EAWAG, Dübendorf, Switzerland
3 Climate and Environmental Physics, Physics Institute, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
4 Department of Chemistry, University of Florence, Florence, Italy
5 Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement, IPSL/CEA/CNRS/UVSQ, Gif-Sur-Yvette, France
6 Alfred-Wegener-Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven, Germany
7 National Institute of Polar Research, Research Organization of Information and Systems (ROIS), Tokyo, Japan
8 Center for Atmospheric and Oceanic Studies Graduate School of Science, Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan
9 ENEA, C. R. Casaccia, Roma, Italy
10 CSNSM/IN2P3/CNRS, Orsay, France
11 Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
12 British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, UK
2 Department
Received: 20 February 2007 – Published in Clim. Past Discuss.: 12 March 2007
Revised: 4 June 2007 – Accepted: 24 July 2007 – Published: 17 August 2007
Abstract. The EPICA (European Project for Ice Coring in
Antarctica) Dome C drilling in East Antarctica has now been
completed to a depth of 3260 m, at only a few meters above
bedrock. Here we present the new EDC3 chronology, which
is based on the use of 1) a snow accumulation and mechanical flow model, and 2) a set of independent age markers
along the core. These are obtained by pattern matching of
recorded parameters to either absolutely dated paleoclimatic
records, or to insolation variations. We show that this new
time scale is in excellent agreement with the Dome Fuji and
Vostok ice core time scales back to 100 kyr within 1 kyr. Discrepancies larger than 3 kyr arise during MIS 5.4, 5.5 and 6,
which points to anomalies in either snow accumulation or
mechanical flow during these time periods. We estimate that
EDC3 gives accurate event durations within 20% (2σ ) back
to MIS11 and accurate absolute ages with a maximum uncertainty of 6 kyr back to 800 kyr.
The EPICA project has provided two records in East Antarctica, one at Dome C (EDC, EPICA community members,
2004), and one in the Dronning Maud Land area (EDML,
Correspondence to: F. Parrenin
([email protected])
EPICA community members, 2006). The completion of the
Dome C core was delayed when the first drilling became
stuck at 788 m in 1999. This shorter EDC96 core provided
45 kyr of paleoclimatic reconstructions (e.g., Jouzel et al.,
2001; Monnin et al., 2001). The next EDC99 drilling was
voluntarily stopped at a depth of 3260 m, about 15 m above
bedrock, above which seismic soundings suggest the presence of melt water. EDC provides the longest in time ice
core record available so far, with so far ∼740 kyr records of
Antarctic temperature (EPICA community members, 2004)
and chemical impurities in Antarctica (Wolff et al., 2006),
and ∼650 kyr records of atmospheric composition (Siegenthaler et al., 2005; Spahni et al., 2005). All these records are
currently being extended to 800 kyr.
An accurate age scale is the basis for the interpretation of
paleoclimatic records. We distinguish different types of accuracies. First, age scales need to be accurate in terms of
absolute ages: we want the estimated age at a certain depth
to be as close as possible to the real age (with an accuracy
expressed in yr). This absolute accuracy is crucial when examining the phasing of two absolutely dated paleoclimatic
records, and with insolation variations calculated by modelling of planet movements in the past (Laskar, 1990). For
example, the insolation/climate phase relationship has been
studied for terminations I and II thanks to accurate absolute
age scales (Jouzel et al., 1995; Henderson and Slowey, 2000).
Published by Copernicus Publications on behalf of the European Geosciences Union.
Second, sequences of events can be analysed in detail without absolutely perfect age scales, provided that the studied
records are stratigraphically linked. Here a relative age scale,
(with an accuracy expressed in years) suffices. For example,
the phasing between Antarctic temperature and CO2 variations during the last deglaciation has been obtained from the
Dome C core by estimating the ice/gas bubbles age difference (Monnin et al., 2001). Other examples include the phasing between Greenland and Antarctic temperature during the
last glacial period obtained by a synchronisation of those
records with the CH4 atmospheric composition, which varies
in phase at both poles (Blunier et al., 1998; EPICA community members, 2006). Third and finally, the last important
accuracy is in the duration of climatic events (expressed in
per cent). Indeed, this duration is characteristic of the climatic mechanisms involved, and will impact the frequency
analysis of the records. We can cite as an example the duration and pacing of the so-called Dansgaard-Oeschger (D-O)
events during the last glacial period which has been extensively studied (e.g., Schulz, 2002).
In the absence of radiochronologic constraints, numerous
methods have been developed to date ice cores. They fall
into 4 categories: (1) counting of layers representing a known
time interval, e.g. annual layers, (2) ice flow modelling, (3)
wiggle matching on other precisely dated time series, in particular insolation variations, and (4) use of climate independent age markers, like volcanic eruptions.
Ice flow modelling has been historically used to date ice
cores from Greenland and Antarctica. A one-dimensional
flow model was first applied to Camp Century (Dansgaard
and Johnsen, 1969), and later to GRIP (Johnsen and Dansgaard, 1992; Johnsen et al., 2001). The Camp Century,
Dye-3 and GISP2 cores were also interpreted by matching
the oxygen 18 isotope record of ice or air bubbles to the
SPECMAP stack (Dansgaard et al., 1985; Bender et al.,
1994), which is itself orbitally tuned. The GISP2 core was
also dated with annual layer counting (Alley et al., 1997). In
Antarctica, two-dimensional flow models were applied to the
along-flow (non-dome) drilling sites of Byrd (Johnsen et al.,
1972) and Vostok (Lorius et al., 1985; Parrenin et al., 2004).
Annual layers were counted back to the LGM at Byrd (Hammer et al., 1994). The Vostok ice core has also been dated
by matching to the orbital SPECMAP scale (Bender et al.,
1994), or directly to insolation variations (Waelbroeck et al.,
1995; Shackleton, 2000). More recently, one dimensional
flow modelling controlled by other dating methods was applied to the EPICA Dome C ice core (EDC1, Schwander et
al., 2001; EDC2, EPICA community members, 2004) and
Dome Fuji ice cores (Watanabe et al., 2003).
All the above dating methods have advantages and drawbacks. Layer counting (Andersen et al., 2007) and ice flow
modelling (Parrenin et al., 2006) are accurate in terms of
event durations because they are based on the evaluation of
the annual layer thickness. On the other hand, errors cumulate and the accuracy on absolute ages decreases with depth.
Clim. Past, 3, 485–497, 2007
F. Parrenin et al.: The EDC3 chronology
The new layer-counted chronology for Greenland (GICC05,
Vinther et al., 2006; Rasmussen et al., 2006; Andersen et
al., 2006; Svensson et al., 2006) uses an improved multiparameter counting approach, and currently extends back to
around 42 kyr BP with a maximum counting error of 4 to 7%
during the last glacial period. Unfortunately, layer counting
is not feasible in central Antarctica where annual cycles are
barely distinguishable (Ekaykin et al., 2002).
Comparison of paleoclimatic records to insolation variations (so-called orbital tuning methods) are generally applicable to a whole ice core, as long as the stratigraphy is preserved (e.g., Martinson et al., 1987; Dreyfus et al., 2007). On
the other hand: (1) the accuracy in terms of event durations
is poor, (2) the accuracy in terms of absolute ages is limited
by the hypothesis of a constant phasing between the climatic
record used for the orbital tuning procedure and the insolation variations (and, by definition, does not allow one to
infer this phasing). The advantage is that the achieved accuracy does not decrease with depth (assuming the underlying
mechanism stays constant). As a consequence, it is currently
the most precise method to date the bottom of deep ice cores.
Recently, the search for local insolation proxies in ice cores
as, e.g. the O2 /N2 ratio (Bender et al., 2002; Kawamura et
al., 2007) or the air content record (Raynaud et al., 2007)
has opened new prospects for eliminating the reliance on this
hypothesis of constant insolation/climate phase, potentially
allowing an accuracy within 1 kyr to be achieved in the coming years.
Precisely dated volcanic horizons provide important age
markers. This is the case for the last millenium (Traufetter et al., 2004), but beyond that limit, only a few of them
have accurate absolute ages (Narcisi et al., 2006). In Antarctic ice cores, comparison to absolutely dated paleoclimatic
records is particularly relevant for the dating of the D-O
events, which have been accurately dated in several archives,
and whose rapid transitions can be localized with a high accuracy in the Antarctic CH4 record. The transfer of those
age markers to the Antarctic ice matrix requires the evaluation of the ice/gas age difference with a firn densification
model (e.g., Goujon et al., 2003, and references therein).
In this article, we present EDC3, the new 800 kyr age scale
of the EPICA Dome C ice core, which is generated using
a combination of various age markers and a glaciological
model. It is constructed in three steps. First, an age scale is
created by applying an ice flow model at Dome C. Independent age markers are used to control several poorly known
parameters of this model (such as the conditions at the base
of the glacier), through an inverse method. Second, the age
scale is synchronised onto the new Greenlandic GICC05 age
scale over three time periods: the last 6 kyr, the last deglaciation, and the Laschamp event (around 41 kyr BP). Third, the
age scale is corrected in the bottom ∼500 m (corresponding
to the time period 400–800 kyr BP), where the model is unable to capture the complex ice flow pattern.
In Sect. 2, we first present the different age markers that
F. Parrenin et al.: The EDC3 chronology
can be found in the EDC ice core. We then describe in Sect. 3
the construction of EDC3. In Sect. 4, we compare it with
other age scales from the late Quaternary. Finally, we discuss
the accuracies of this new time scale in Sect. 5.
In this paper, the notation “yr BP” refers to “years before
Age markers
In this section, we describe the dated horizons (so-called age
markers) that can be derived from the EDC ice core.
Dated volcanic eruptions during the last millenium
Using sulphate data (Castellano et al., 2005), several volcanic
eruptions of known age have been identified in the EDC96
ice core during the Holocene. Among these, only a few of
the most recent are independently absolutely dated (Traufetter et al., 2004): Krakatau1 , 8.35 m, AD1884±1; Tambora,
12.34 m, AD1816±1; Huaynaputina, 23.20 m, AD1601±1;
Kuwae, 29.77 m, AD1460±5; Unknown (El Chichon?),
38.12 m, AD1259±5; Unidentified, 39.22 m, AD1228±5;
Unknown, 41.52 m, AD1171±6.
Synchronisation onto GICC05 and INTCAL with 10 Be
for the last 6 kyr
10 Be and 14 C are cosmogenic radionuclides, and their production rates are modulated by solar activity and by the
strength of the Earth’s magnetic field. Therefore 10 Be
records in Greenland and Antarctica, as well as atmospheric
14 C reconstructions (INTCAL, Reimer et al., 2004) show
common variations.
Three methods were used independently to construct age
scales for EDC over the last 6 kyr. The first two are obtained
by wiggle matching the EDML 10 Be record to either the
GRIP 10 Be record dated by layer counting (GICC05, Vinther
et al., 2006), or with the INTCAL atmospheric 14 C reconstruction (Reimer et al., 2004). These age scales have been
transferred to EDC96 by volcanic synchronisation (Severi et
al., 2007). The third time scale is obtained by wiggle matching to the Vostok 10 Be record with INTCAL atmospheric 14 C
reconstructions (Raisbeck et al., 1998). The resulting Vostok
age scale (more precisely the VK-BH1 core age scale) was
then transferred to EDC96 via the VK-BH7 core by volcanic
matching (Udisti et al., 2004).
We derive two age markers from these chronologies, at
periods of large 10 Be and 14 C variations (when the synchronisation is robust). The three chronologies give similar ages
within 30 years for these two periods and we calculated average ages of : 2716 yr BP and 5279 yr BP for the age markers
at 107.83 m and 181.13 m, respectively.
1 The identification of this volcanic eruption has actually been
revised since the study by Castellano et al. (2005).
Match to GICC05 with CH4 during the last deglaciation
During the last deglaciation, synchronisation to the NGRIP
GICC05 chronology (Rasmussen et al., 2006) is possible
with the transitions (Björck et al., 1998) that are common
to the Greenland and Antarctic high resolution methane
records, and the Greenland climate record (Severinghaus
and Brook, 1999): GS-2a/GI-1e (Oldest Dryas/Bølling),
GI-1a/GS-1 (Allerød/Younger Dryas) and GS-1/Holocene
(Younger Dryas/Holocene). In that way an age for the CH4
transitions can be obtained. This age for the gas record then
has to be transferred to an age for the ice. However, the uncertainty in the estimation of this age difference (1age) is
large at EDC because of the low accumulation rate and the
low temperature (typical model estimates of 1age at EDC
are 2200 yr for the Holocene and 5500 yr for the LGM).
This forces us to make a detour via the EDML ice core
where accumulation rate and temperature are higher (typical model estimates of 1age at EDML are 700 yr for the
Holocene and 1800 yr for the LGM). For the rapid warmings at the GS-2a/GI-1e and GS-1/Holocene transitions, the
EDML CH4 data were matched to the NGRIP stable isotope record (NGRIP project members, 2004). The corresponding GICC05 ages were transferred first from the EDML
gas depth-scale to the EDML ice depth-scale by subtracting
the calculated 1depth (depth difference between gas bubbles and ice with the same age). 1depth was obtained by
multiplying the modelled close off depth (in ice equivalent,
Loulergue et al., 2007) with the EDML mechanical thinning function (Huybrechts et al., 2007). This age was further transferred to EDC via the volcanic match between both
cores (Severi et al., 2007).
The two derived age markers are 11.65±0.32 and
14.64±0.35 kyr BP for respectively 355.34 m and 421.15 m
EDC96-depth. The uncertainty is estimated as the root mean
square sum of the GICC05 age error (the number of uncertain layers given by Rasmussen et al., 2006, is taken as 2σ )
and of a 300 yr 2σ uncertainty resulting from the uncertainty
in the 1depth estimate at EDML (2σ =10 m).
Match to GICC05 during the Laschamp event
The Laschamp geomagnetic excursion gives rise to a structured peak in the 10 Be records from Greenland (Yiou et al.,
1997) and Antarctica (Raisbeck et al., 2002), which can be
used to synchronise EDC96 to GRIP (Raisbeck et al., 2007),
and in turn, to NGRIP dated by layer counting (GICC05,
Andersen et al., 2006; Svensson et al., 2006). Two of the
10 Be sub-peaks have been localized in the EDC96 ice core
at 735.35 m and 744.81 m, and at 2231.9 m and 2246.2 m
at GRIP. The corresponding GICC05 age for the middle
of these two peaks is 41 200 yr BP (max counting error of
1627 yr), corresponding to a depth of 740.08 m at EDC (Raisbeck et al., 2002) and we adopt this age.
Clim. Past, 3, 485–497, 2007
F. Parrenin et al.: The EDC3 chronology
18 O
This age of the Laschamp event is compatible (within the
uncertainties) with K-Ar and 40 Ar-39 Ar ages from contemporaneous lava flow (40.4±2.0 kyr BP, Guillou et al., 2004).
During this time period, which corresponds to D-O event 10
(Yiou et al., 1997; Raisbeck et al., 2002), GICC05 is also
in good agreement with the Hulu Cave U-Th chronology
(41.4 kyr BP, Wang et al., 2001), and with the Cariaco basin
record (Hughen et al., 2004) when its 14 C ages are calibrated
following the Fairbanks et al. (2005) curve (we obtain again
an age of 41.2 kyr BP for the middle of the 10 Be peak corresponding to the middle of D-O 10). Genty et al. (2003) also
found a compatible U-Th age of 40.0 kyr BP for the middle
of D-O 10, though the identification of D-O 10 in this record
is more ambiguous.
A relationship between the isotopic composition of atmospheric oxygen (δ 18 O of O2 , noted δ 18 Oatm ) and daily northern hemisphere summer insolation has been observed at Vostok for the youngest four climate cycles. This property has
been exploited to construct various orbital age scales for
Vostok (Petit et al., 1999; Shackleton, 2000). Dreyfus et
al. (2007) used a similar approach to derive an age scale
for the bottom part of the EDC ice core (300–800 kyr BP)
by assuming that 18 Oatm lags the summer-solstice precession
variations by 5 kyr with an estimated uncertainty of 6 kyr.
The selected age markers are placed at each mid-transition
of δ 18 Oatm (see Dreyfus et al., 2007, for more details).
The Mont Berlin ash layer
Thanks to geochemical data (major elements and trace elements), Narcisi et al. (2006) identified a volcanic ash layer
originating from a Mt Berlin (Antarctica) eruption. This
event has been dated at 92.5±2 kyr BP by an Ar/Ar method
applied on ash material collected close to the volcano.
Timing of termination II
The age of the rapid CH4 event marking the end of termination II can be found by comparison to U-Th dated speleothem
records, assuming that these fast transitions are synchronous.
We obtain 129.3 kyr BP from Dongge cave in China (Yuan et
al., 2004), and 130.9 kyr BP from Pekiin cave in Northern
Israel (Bar-Matthews et al., 2003). We took the average of
these two ages (130.1 kyr BP) and assumed a confidence interval of 2 kyr. We used the 1depth estimate from the EDC2
age scale to export the CH4 depth of 1723 m to an ice depth
of 1699 m on EDC99. The uncertainty introduced by this
ice/gas depth difference evaluation is only a few hundred
years, so it is negligible compared to the uncertainty in the
absolute age.
Air content age markers 0–440 kyr BP
The total air content of polar ice may be interpreted as a
marker of the local summer insolation (Raynaud et al., 2007).
Apparently, the solar radiative power absorbed at the surface
influences the snow structure in the first upper meters and,
in turn, the porosity of snow in the bubble close-off layer.
The detailed physical mechanism is still under debate, however, the presence of a strong 41 kyr obliquity period in the
air content signal makes it appropriate for the application of
an orbital tuning method. We used 19 age markers from the
air content age scale available back to 440 kyr BP. Each age
marker corresponds to a minimum of obliquity, and the assumed uncertainty is 4 kyr2 .
2 Since the definition of these air content age markers, the
method to reconstruct a local insolation metronome based on the
Clim. Past, 3, 485–497, 2007
age markers for stages 300–800 kyr BP
The Brunhes-Matuyama reversal
The most recent of the geomagnetic inversions, referred to as
the Brunhes-Matuyama reversal, has been localized between
3161 and 3170 m in the EDC 10 Be record (Raisbeck et al.,
2006). This reversal has been dated radiometrically to have
occurred 776±12 kyr BP (Coe et al., 2004), taking into account decay constant and calibration uncertainties. This transition has also been orbitally dated to be 778 kyr ago (Tauxe
et al., 1996). Several authors have also reported evidence for
a “precursor” event, 15 kyr before the B-M boundary (Brown
et al., 2004), supported by the EDC 10 Be record.
Construction of the time scale
The EDC3 age scale
The EDC3 age scale was constructed in three stages.
First, a preliminary dating was obtained by ice flow modelling alone (Parrenin et al., 2007). The ice flow model
has two components. 1) The initial annual layer thickness
(i.e. the accumulation rate) is evaluated from the deuterium
content of the ice, assuming an exponential relationship between accumulation rate and deuterium content, the later being corrected for variations in isotopic composition of the
mean ocean. 2) The vertical compression of the layers, or total thinning ratio, is evaluated with a mechanical model. The
age at a depth z is then given by:
Z z
age (z) =
dz0 .
0 T (z ) a (z )
where a(z) is the initial annual layer thickness and T(z) is
the compression factor. This ice flow model contains several poorly known parameters: the average Holocene accumulation rate, the slope between deuterium and logarithm
of accumulation, the basal melting, and two parameters for
EDC air content record has been improved and the final air content
age scale is slightly different.
F. Parrenin et al.: The EDC3 chronology
the vertical profile of velocity (basal sliding and internal deformation). The values of these parameters have been determined by independent age markers, using a Monte Carlo
Markov Chain (MCMC) inverse method. 21 age markers
have been selected and are listed in Table 1. Not all those
listed in Sect. 2 have been selected, in order to prevent overtuning the model in certain parts which would be a detriment
to other parts. There are 8 age markers during the last climatic cycle, and in particular 3 during the Holocene. It is
important to understand how this “modelled” age scale is dependent on these age markers. The average Holocene accumulation rate impacts the Holocene ages and is mainly constrained by the Holocene age markers (dated volcanoes and
10 Be age markers). Then the deuterium – accumulation slope
affects the glacial ages and is mainly constrained by the age
of the Laschamp event. The basal melting influences the total
duration of the record and is mainly constrained by the bottom age markers. Finally, the two parameters related to the
vertical profile of velocity only induce general trends in the
age scale and are constrained by all the other age markers.
Hence, the resulting age scale does not match perfectly the
age markers obtained by comparison to insolation variations
(obtained from the air content record).
The second stage is an a posteriori strict match of the age
scale to dated volcanoes and to the NorthGRIP GICC05 time
scale in the top part. In this part, the total thinning function
is close to 1 and thought to be well constrained by the ice
flow model. For this reason we expect the main sources of
uncertainties to come from the accumulation model. Consequently we modified the modelled accumulation rate so that
the resulting age scale fits perfectly with: 1) the dated volcanoes of the last millenium; 2) the two 10 Be age markers in
the last 6 kyr (Sect. 2.2); 3) one methane age marker during
the last deglaciation (Sect. 2.3); 4) the Laschamp age marker
at 41.2 kyr BP (Sect. 2.4). These age markers are listed in
Table 1.
The third stage is a correction of the modelled thinning
function in the bottom 500 m of the core (beyond MIS11,
∼400 kyr BP), where the ice flow model is unable to fit the
δ 18 Oatm age markers (Dreyfus et al., 2007). This problem
was first detected by Lisiecki and Raymo (2005), who suggested a problem in the accumulation estimate. However,
Dreyfus et al. (2007) showed, by a comparison of deuterium
and CO2 variations, that this anomaly is principally due to
the presence of ice flow irregularities. They a posteriori corrected the total thinning function so that the resulting age
scale fits those δ 18 Oatm age markers within their confidence
interval. See Dreyfus et al. (2007, Table 1) for a complete list
of the age markers used and for more details on the method.
By following this procedure, we have used the best available chronological information for each section of the core,
while still allowing the model to provide a smooth interpolation of all unconstrained periods.
As stated in the introduction, two different cores have been
drilled at EDC: EDC96 extending to 788 m depth (
Table 1. Age markers used for the construction of the EDC3 age
scale. They fall into 3 categories: 1) Age markers used to control the
poorly known parameters of the modelling; 2) Age markers used for
a posteriori correction in the top part of the core (EDC3 is required
to pass exactly through those age markers); 3) Age markers used to
correct for ice flow anomalies in the bottom part.
age marker
(kyr BP)
error bar
(kyr BP)
El Chichon?
10 Be/14 C
10 Be/14 C
10 Be peak
Mt Berlin erupt.
term. II
air content
air content
air content
air content
air content
air content
air content
air content
air content
air content
18 O
18 O
18 O
18 O
18 O
18 O
18 O
18 O
18 O
18 O
18 O
18 O
18 O
18 O
18 O
18 O
18 O
18 O
18 O
18 O
18 O
18 O
18 O
18 O
18 O
18 O
18 O
18 O
18 O
18 O
18 O
18 O
18 O
18 O
18 O
18 O
18 O
B-M reversal
Clim. Past, 3, 485–497, 2007
F. Parrenin et al.: The EDC3 chronology
age difference (yr)
EDC3 age (yr BP)
Fig. 1. Age difference between the EDC1 (resp. EDC2) and EDC3 time scales for the last 45 kyr.
mately back to 45 kyr BP), and EDC99 drilled down to the
bedrock. For the first ∼45 kyr, the majority of paleoclimatic
reconstructions have been obtained from EDC96. Therefore,
EDC3 has been defined on EDC96 depths on the shallow part
and on EDC99 depths in the bottom part. The age scale has
then been transferred to EDC99 in the shallow part thanks
to a volcanic synchronisation of the two cores (Wolff et al.,
Estimates of the gas-ice age difference and related discussions can be found in Loulergue et al. (2007).
EDC3 exported to EDML, Dome Fuji and Vostok
The EDC3 age scale was then exported to EDML, Dome
Fuji and Vostok thanks to synchronisation of these ice cores
with EDC. The EDC-EDML synchronisation and the resulting EDML1 chronology are fully described in Severi et
al. (2007) and Ruth et al. (2007). The EDC-DF and EDCVK synchronisations are done by matching isotopic records,
and by using common volcanic horizons (Narcisi et al.,
20053 ). See supplementary material (http://www.clim-past.
net/3/485/2007/ for a list of
synchronisation markers used.
EDC3 compared to other age scales
Comparison with EDC1 and EDC2
The former EDC1 time scale for EDC96 (Schwander et al.,
2001), and the extended EDC2 for the last 740 kyr (EPICA
3 We did not use the EDC-VK volcanic synchronisation obtained
by Udisti et al. (2004), because it concerns the 5G VK core, and
not the 3G core on which the deuterium measurements have been
Clim. Past, 3, 485–497, 2007
community members, 2004) were also built on a combination
of age markers and modelling information. As for EDC3,
a one dimensional ice flow model was controlled by a set
of age markers. There are however several important differences. For EDC1, the time scale extended only back to
45 kyr BP, and different glaciological parameters were used
for different time periods covered by the time scale. EDC2
extended only back to 740 kyr BP and there was no a posteriori correction of the age scale, neither in the top part, nor
in the bottom part where the ice flow is complex. Moreover,
the ice flow model did not take into account basal sliding and
variations in ice sheet thickness, and the age markers were
mainly obtained by comparison to the oceanic Bassinot stack
(Bassinot et al., 1994).
Figure 1 compares EDC1 and EDC3 on the last 45 kyr.
EDC2 is also shown for convenience, but EDC1 was still
the official age scale for the top part of the core. EDC3 is
younger by a few decades for the last 2 kyr. Then it is older
by less than 100 yr between 2 and 8 kyr BP. The difference
increases to ∼200 yr for the early Holocene period, around
10 kyr BP. Then the difference becomes positive (EDC1 is
older) with a maximum of ∼600 yr at the LGM. The difference finally decreases roughly linearly down to –700 yr at
45 kyr BP.
Figure 2 compares EDC2 and EDC3. The difference
ranges approximately between –1.5 and +3 kyr for the last
400 kyr. EDC3 is older during the last glacial period, with a
difference of ∼3 kyr for MIS 5.5. This is due in particular to
the use of the Mt Berlin and Termination II age markers. The
difference between EDC3 and EDC2 then slowly decreases
back to MIS 10.
For the period 400–800 kyr BP, the difference is much
larger, and reaches –20 and +7 kyr. This is due to the a posteriori correction in EDC3 of ice flow irregularities in the
bottom part of the core. The largest differences are for MIS
F. Parrenin et al.: The EDC3 chronology
age difference (yr)
age difference
age (yr BP)
Fig. 2. Comparison of the EDC deuterium record on the EDC2 and EDC3 time scales. The green curve represents the difference in age
between EDC2 and EDC3. Y-axes for isotopic records are normalised.
age difference
age difference (yr)
age (yr BP)
Fig. 3. Comparison of the EDC deuterium record on the EDC3 time scale with the LR04 marine stack on its own time scale, shifted by
3 kyr towards older ages. The green curve represents the difference in age between LR04 (+3 kyr) and EDC3 assuming both records are
synchronous. Y-axes for isotopic records are normalised.
13–14 (where EDC3 is older by 15–20 kyr), MIS 15.3 (where
EDC3 is younger by ∼5 kyr) and MIS 16 (where EDC3 is
older by 10–15 kyr). Duration of MIS 15.1 has been considerably shortened in EDC3, while the duration of MIS 12 is
now longer.
Comparison with LR04
The LR04 marine stack is composed of benthic δ 18 O records
from 57 globally distributed sites aligned by an automated
graphic correlation algorithm (Lisiecki and Raymo, 2005).
The LR04 age model is derived from tuning the δ 18 O stack
to a simple ice model based on 21 June insolation at 65◦ N,
with additional constraints from the sedimentation to prevent
In Fig. 3, we compared the EDC deuterium record on
EDC3 with the LR04 stack on its own time scale. Of course,
as a benthic record, LR04 contains a sea level part and a temperature part and as a consequence is older than EDC by several thousands of years. For an easier comparison, we thus
shifted it by 3 kyr towards older ages. This 3 kyr phase is the
observed phase of both records during the last deglaciation.
On Fig. 3 is also plotted the age difference between the two
age scales (with the 3 kyr phase lag removed). For that, we
used features that can be identified with confidence in both
curves (e.g. terminations). We preferentially placed points at
The overall agreement between both time scales is good,
with differences never exceeding 6 kyr. In contrast, the previous EDC2 time scale showed disagreements up to 20 kyr
with LR04 in the part older than 400 kyr BP (Lisiecki and
Raymo, 2005; Dreyfus et al., 2007). The age difference is
particularly small during the last 400 kyr (back to MIS11),
Clim. Past, 3, 485–497, 2007
F. Parrenin et al.: The EDC3 chronology
age difference
age difference (yr)
age (yr BP)
Fig. 4. Comparison of the EDC deuterium record on the EDC3 time scale with the Dome Fuji δ 18 O record on the DFGT-2006 time scale
(Parrenin et al., 2007). The green curve represents the difference in age between DFGT-2006 and EDC3 at the depth of the synchronisation
markers. Y-axes for isotopic records are normalised.
age difference
age difference (yr)
age (yr BP)
Fig. 5. Comparison of the EDC deuterium record on the EDC3 time scale with the Vostok deuterium record on the VK-FGT1 time scale
(Parrenin et al., 2004). The green curve represents the difference in age between VK-FGT1 and EDC3 at the depth of the synchronisation
markers. Y-axes for isotopic records are normalised.
oscillating between –1.5 kyr and 3 kyr. This age difference
may reflect either errors in the synchronisation, or may be
due to phases in the climatic system, i.e. related to the fact
that both curves do not represent the same climatic proxy.
The fact that this difference is stable is reassuring because it
shows a certain consistency between both time scales which
were derived completely independently. The glaciological
modelling method thus seems appropriate for Dome C back
to MIS11 without any additional distortion. The age difference increases to approximately 6 kyr between 450 and
600 kyr BP, then reaches its minimum at termination VII
(from MIS16 to MIS15) with –3 kyr, increases again to 6 kyr
at MIS18, and finally decreases to around –2 kyr at termination 9 (from MIS20 to MIS19). This bottom interval (beyond
MIS11) where the age difference is less stable, is where the
ice flow model becomes inaccurate (Dreyfus et al., 2007).
Clim. Past, 3, 485–497, 2007
Comparison with DF and VK glaciological chronologies
In Fig. 4 and Fig. 5, we compare the EDC isotopic record on
the EDC3 time scale with the Dome Fuji and Vostok isotopic
record, on their respective glaciological age scales DFGT2006 (Parrenin et al., 2007) and VK-FGT1 (Parrenin et al.,
The age differences are always less than 1 kyr for the last
∼90 kyr. This good agreement is especially remarkable because very few age markers were used for the last glacial
part. We interpret it as the fact that the glaciological models
used are robust for the upper part of the ice sheets where the
mechanical ice flow is still predictable. It is also a proof that
the assumed relationship between isotopic content of the ice
and surface accumulation rate is valid within a few percent.
F. Parrenin et al.: The EDC3 chronology
isotopic composition
age (yr BP)
Fig. 6. Comparison of three glaciological age scales during the time interval MIS6-MIS5.4. The EDC deuterium record is on the EDC3 time
scale. The Vostok deuterium record is on the VK-FGT1 time scale (Parrenin et al., 2004). The Dome Fuji δ 18 O record is on the DFGT-2006
time scale (Parrenin et al., 2007). Y-axes for isotopic records are normalised.
The age of term. II is roughly consistent in all three glaciological chronologies, as can be seen in Fig. 6. Using the rapid
methane event marking the end of the deglaciation and corresponding to the end of the Antarctic isotope increase, we
obtain 129.2 kyr BP in EDC3, 129 kyr BP in VK-FGT1 and
129.8 kyr BP in DFGT-2006. This age is also in good agreement with estimates based on coral-reef high stands (Waelbroeck et al., 20074 ). The age old debate on the age of Termination II, old in a previous ice core chronology (Lorius et
al., 1985) and young in the orbitally tuned marine records
(Imbrie et al., 1984) now seems to be converging.
The age discrepancies are larger for the second climatic
cycle, where EDC3 is significantly older than both DFGT2006 and VK-FGT1, the difference reaching around 5 kyr.
The agreement is again better for the third and fourth climatic
cycles, with differences never exceeding 2 kyr.
Figure 7 compares the duration of climatic events in EDC3
and DFGT-2006, or in EDC3 and VK-FGT1. These three
time scales are consistent, generally within 20%. It should
be noted that differences depicted on this figure may either
reflect a real difference in the age scales, or an error in the
synchronisation process. The agreement is very good back
to ∼90 kyr BP, but then the situation for MIS5.4 to 6 is
more complex (see Fig. 6). MIS5.4 is significantly shorter
in EDC3 than in DFGT-2006 and VK-FGT1. Then, the
duration of MIS5.5 (∼16 kyr, taken at mid-transitions) is
intermediate in EDC3 between its duration in DFGT-2006
(∼14.5 kyr) and its duration in VK-FGT1 (∼18 kyr). Finally,
4 Waelbroeck, C., Frank, N., Jouzel, J., Parrenin, F., Masson-
Delmotte, V., and Genty, D.: Transferring radiometric dating of the
Last Interglacial sea level high stand to marine and ice core records,
submitted, 2007.
the duration of MIS6 is significantly shorter in EDC3 than
in both other age scales. We do not know at this stage if
these discrepancies are due to poorly understood processes
in the accumulation models or in the mechanical thinning
models. A recent study on the structure of cristallographic
orientations suggests non-unidimensional flow processes for
this time period (Durand et al., 2007), and the authors suggest accurately monitoring the EDC borehole to quantify the
amount of shear. A precise synchronisation between the ice
cores in both the ice and gas phases may also help distinguish
an accumulation anomaly from a thinning anomaly.
Confidence interval of the age scale
The confidence interval determination is a difficult task when
no robust statistical information is available. Here, we evaluate it subjectively by using the comparison with the other age
scales and with the age markers.
Back to AD1600, the error in EDC3 mainly comes from
the interpolation of the dated volcanoes which we estimate
it to be 3 yr (2σ ). Between AD1100-1600, the age error of
the volcanoes increases to 5 yr, and adding an interpolation
error we estimate the total error at 8 yr. The accuracy is then
constrained by the accuracy of the 10 Be age markers, which
we estimate at 100 yr. We thus estimate that the 2σ error
on EDC3 increases to 100 yr at 2000 yr BP and stays stable
back to 6000 yr BP. The accuracy of EDC3 then increases to
400 yr at 14 kyr BP, which is roughly the error on the CH4
age markers. By comparison to the Dome Fuji and Vostok chronologies and to the GICC05 age of the Laschamp,
we estimate the confidence interval to increase to 1 kyr at
18 kyr (Last Glacial Maximum), 1.5 kyr at 40 kyr, and finally
Clim. Past, 3, 485–497, 2007
F. Parrenin et al.: The EDC3 chronology
duration in VK-FGT1 (yr)
duration in DFGT-2006 (yr)
duration in EDC3 (yr)
duration in EDC3 (yr)
Fig. 7. Durations between two consecutive synchronisation markers in EDC3 compared to durations in DFGT-2006 (left panel) or in VKFGT1 (right panel). Plain pink line is the 1:1 curve. Dashed pink lines represent the 1:0.8 and 0.8:1 lines.
3 kyr at 100 kyr BP. Our estimated confidence interval is constrained by the quality of the orbital tuning age markers from
air content or 18 Oatm records; we estimate it to increase to
6 kyr at 130 kyr and to stay stable down to the bottom of the
In terms of event durations, we estimate the accuracy to be
20% for the top part of the record (back to MIS11), by comparison to Vostok and Dome Fuji glaciological age scales.
For the bottom part (below MIS11), a more conservative estimate of 40% is more appropriate because of the flow anomalies (Dreyfus et al., 2007).
to apply this inverse method to several drilling sites simultaneously, to obtain a common and optimal age scale for several ice cores, as has been done in the marine world (Lisiecki
and Raymo, 2005).
We also hope that the precision of the age markers will
increase in the coming years. The number of U-Th dated
speleothems for the last climatic cycles should increase in
the future (Henderson, 2006). New local insolation proxies
such as O2 /N2 and air content are also a promising source of
accurate age markers, but the physical mechanisms involved
need to be better understood and the accuracy of these age
scales needs to be independently confirmed.
Acknowledgements. We thank the logistics and drilling teams,
responsible for the recovery of the EDC and EDML ice cores.
This work is a contribution to the European Project for Ice
Coring in Antarctica (EPICA), a joint European Science Foundation/European Commission scientific programme, funded by the
EU (EPICA-MIS) and by national contributions from Belgium,
Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway,
Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. The main logistic
support was provided by IPEV and PNRA (at Dome C) and AWI
(at Dronning Maud Land). It was partly funded by the French ANR
projects MIDIGA and PICC. This is EPICA publication no. 184.
Conclusion and perspectives
We derived an EDC3 chronology for the EPICA Dome C
ice core, which was then exported to EDML, Dome Fuji and
Vostok ice cores by synchronisation of these ice cores. This
chronology has been obtained using a combination of age
markers and ice flow modelling. The good agreement between EDC, Vostok and Dome Fuji ice flow models points
to the good accuracy of EDC3 in terms of event durations,
which we estimate to be better than 20% for the last 400 kyr.
This is a significant improvement with respect to marine age
scales where the resolution is poorer and where the sedimentation is less regular.
Apart from ice flow modelling improvements, further developments need to be done concerning the inverse method
used for the conjunction of models and age markers. The
method used for EDC3 is based on a so-called deterministic approach, where the uncertainties in the ice flow models
are supposed to originate from poorly known physical parameters. In reality, there are other non-identified sources of
uncertainty in these models which need to be taken into account in a statistical way. A second potential improvement is
Clim. Past, 3, 485–497, 2007
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