Of Interstadials, A Fondness of Beetles, And Warmer Than Now

Interstadial is an interesting word. It means a somewhat surprising rapid warm up to a warm period during an Ice Age Glacial period.

Now think about that for just a minute. During a cold glacial time, things rapidly warm up. A lot. And without any nasty old CO2 to blame. This happens so much, so regularly, and so strongly that there is a specific name for it. Interstadial.

One, that happened “recently” in geologic time, is called the Mid-Wisconsin Interstadial. About 30,000 years ago. Things got warm. Just how warm? Well, it’s been hard to say, but most of the time folks figured it to be about as warm as now, or even a bit warmer. A Wag might ask how that can be without the Magic Gas CO2 in the air; but folks not bought into the CO2 Mythology know it’s easy to have natural warming. Nature has done it many many times.

In an article on WUWT, there was a discussion of the Mid-Wisconsin Interstadial. Commenter Frederick Colbourne said:

Scott A. Elias stated in 1999, “A Mid-Wisconsin interstadial warming dating from 43.5–39 ka was rapid and intense. At the peak of the warming event, about 42 ka, TMAX values were only 1–2°C lower than modern.”

That mosses were exposed from this interstadial is not indicative of much. The maximum temperature was not much below the present. Besides, the interstadial lasted only 4,000 years, not long enough for the Arctic coasts to rebound to their present elevation.

But the thrust of the paper in the WUWT article was that mosses were being exposed that had been under ice since that 44,000 years ago time. Which to me says that it was WARMER then as we have only now gotten the ice melted off those mosses and clearly they were not ice covered when they were happily growing to form there in the first place.

An Extraordinary Fondness Of Beetles

Turns out that there are “beetlemometers” that tell you the temperature in the past.


Late Pleistocene of North America
S A Elias, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, UK
ã 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
This article is reproduced from the previous edition, volume 1, pp. 222–236, ã 2007, Elsevier B.V.
The mid-Wisconsin
interstadial, MIS 3, is thought to have lasted from approximately
65–25 ka. Isotopic data from Greenland ice cores and
North Atlantic oceanic cores show multiple, abrupt climate
changes during marine isotope stage 3 (Grootes et al., 1993).
Events within the first half of this interval cannot be dated by
the radiocarbon method, and organic deposits that are stratigraphically
correlated to the mid-Wisconsin interval are poorly
dated in many regions of North America. The analysis of fossil
beetle assemblages has progressed sufficiently in North America
to allow reconstructions of the timing and intensity of MIS 3
climatic change (Elias, 1999).

So climate changes abruptly, rapidly, and all on its own. No CO2 needed. It can, does, and has, rapidly warmed. I’m not going to quote the whole paper at you. Just a couple of cherry picked points about the fact that some places, during some of this time, were warmer than today. At least, per the beetles. Now if it can warm up to warmer than now in some places, all on its own, and without any CO2 from humans, seems to me it could be doing that right now all on its own too.

The clearest indication of the strength of interstadial warming
in eastern North America comes from the series of beetle
faunal assemblages from Titusville, Pennsylvania (Figure 1,
No. 6). The six fossil assemblages were deposited between
approximately 46 and 43 ka. Within this interval, the Titusville
faunas reflect climatic amerlioration, followed by cooling.
The oldest fauna (46.5 ka) indicates cooling of both Tmax and
Tmin to approximately the same level as at the Chaudie`re valley
site (Table 1). At the height of regional warming (ca. 45.7 ka),
Tmax was only 2 C less than modern levels, and Tmin was
approximately 6 C colder than modern. This warm interval
occurred at approximately the same time as the Upper Warren
Interstadial in Britain and the warm sea-surface temperature
interval between Heinrich events 4 and 5 (Elias, 1999). By the
end of the interstadial event (43.2 ka), regional climates had
cooled to even lower levels than previously. Thus, in the space
of approximately 3000 years, regional climates oscillated from
subarctic to boreal and back again.

So in 3000 years, it can be all over the place.

In the earlier MIS 5e period (roughly, the last interglacial period), it was warmer:

This evidence comes from several sites
on the Noatak River in northwestern Alaska (Figure 4,
Nos. 4–6) and the Nuyakuk site in southwestern Alaska
(Figure 4, No. 7). Full interglacial warming peaked at
levels that varied from region to region. In southwestern
Alaska, the height of MIS 5e amelioration was as much as
3.5 C warmer than modern at the Nuyakuk site. At the
NK-37 site in northwestern Alaska, Tmax climbed to as
much as 4.5 C above modern levels. Further east, summer
temperatures were probably closer to modern levels. The
best constrained estimate of average winter temperatures
during MIS 5e comes from Chi’Jee’s Bluff. This estimate
suggests that Tmin was approximately 4–7 C warmer than

Still, the world came through it OK…

But was it ever warmer after that last interglacial? Closer to modern times, but during the last glacial?

The strongest indication of interstadial warming
comes from the Titaluk River fauna dated 33.6 ka. This fauna
yielded a Tmax estimate 0.5–2 C warmer than modern. The
other faunas discussed previously yielded Tmax estimates that
were 0.5–2 C cooler than modern. Interestingly, a fauna dated
31.5 ka from Mayo Village, Yukon (Figure 4, No. 18), indicates
that regional Tmax had fallen to 5–6 C colder than modern
levels. Likewise, a fauna dated 35.2 ka from Eva Creek, interior
Alaska (Figure 4,No. 8), indicatedTmax levels 7–8 C colder than
modern. Thus, within the space of 2,000 years, temperatures
appear to have oscillated dramatically in eastern Beringia.

So about 33.6 thousand years ago. Smack in the middle of the glaciation. It gets 1/2 C to 2 C warmer than now in Titaluk River basin. Then turns around and plunges up to 7-8 C. All in about 2000 years. Kind of like the Roman Optimum to the Little Ice Age and back to the Modern Optimum. Only more so…

Now just how can some folks ignore that? In geologic terms, 30kya “nearly now”. There is just no foundation at all for saying that temperatures ought to be stable, nor that any changes are caused by people. The temperature changes on this planet. All by itself and whenever it wants to.

Further, it has been warmer than now; fairly recently. Polar life survived. The Bears were fine, as were the penguins.

In Conclusion

It’s an interesting paper. There are many more like it. Searching on Mid-Wisconsin Interstadial is interesting; as is a search on Marine Isotope Stage 3 and similar.

Yes, many of the 24 or so interstadials in the recent glacial were D.O. events. That just makes the point even stronger. There is something, natural, driving those periodic warm then cold wobbles. It is not people doing it.


A stadial is a period of lower temperatures during an interglacial (warm period) separating the glacial periods of an ice age. Such periods are of insufficient duration or intensity to be considered glacial periods. Notable stadials include the Older Dryas and Younger Dryas stadials and the Little Ice Age.

An interstadial is a warm period during a glacial period of an ice age that is of insufficient duration or intensity to be considered an interglacial.

Generally, interstadials endure for less than ten thousand years and interglacials for more than ten thousand. The Eemian Stage, which lasted from about 130,000 to 114,000 years ago, was the last interglacial prior to the present Holocene epoch. The Bølling Oscillation and the Allerød Oscillation, where they are not clearly distinguished in the stratigraphy, are taken together to form the Bølling/Allerød interstadial, and dated from about 14,700 to 12,700 years before the present.

Greenland ice cores show 24 interstadials during the one hundred thousand years of the Wisconsin glaciation. Referred to as the Dansgaard-Oeschger events, they have been extensively studied,
and in their northern European contexts are sometimes named after towns, such as the Brorup, the Odderade, the Oerel, the Glinde, the Hengelo, the Denekamp, etc.

So who’s to say this isn’t just another D.O. / Bond Event wobble? I can say they have not stopped happening.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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13 Responses to Of Interstadials, A Fondness of Beetles, And Warmer Than Now

  1. philjourdan says:

    From the sound of it, while short, the interstadials still are longer than 100 years. So I do not think that the 27 years of warming we have had in the last 160 years qualifies as an interstadial yet. It may at some point.

    But we know what the response from the alarmists is going to be. That the interstadials were not global (and clearly the evidence for them is obtained regionally), and that they were not as warm as today because the tree proxies do not indicate it.

    Besides, as long as they keep monkeying with the data, they are going to constantly whine that no period in the history of the planet has been as warm as now – and they will adjust the temperatures to prove it. Anti-science Mikey Mann says so.

  2. tom0mason says:

    Just goes to show that there is more to climate variations than all the UN prognostications can tell you

  3. vukcevic says:

    Tree rings eldorado for climate scientists
    Winter storms which battered the coast of Wales have exposed previously hidden remains of trees dating back 6000 years.

  4. p.g.sharrow says:

    For some reason the present weather setup strikes me as the necessary environment to recreate the great Ice Mountains. Just a bit more snow and a bit less melt, Ice Mountains in the Northeast and Desert in the Southwest, All that is needed is a somewhat persistent western high pressure ridge. This one seems to have causes other then meteorological. I have watched it come and go for over 50 years. I have heard of several explanations of weather based causes but none that convinces me of this things creation.
    Weather has to go over or around it depending on its’ intensity. The world is a curious place. pg

  5. @Vukcevic: Glad to know from you! Things are really changing and perhaps not only because of “storms” but because of those forces which drive storms….As you taught us years ago.

  6. Zeke says:

    EM Smith says, “So climate changes abruptly, rapidly, and all on its own. No CO2 needed. It can, does, and has, rapidly warmed…. It gets 1/2 C to 2 C warmer than now in Titaluk River basin. Then turns around and plunges up to 7-8 C. All in about 2000 years. Kind of like the Roman Optimum to the Little Ice Age and back to the Modern Optimum. Only more so…

    Now just how can some folks ignore that? In geologic terms, 30kya “nearly now”. There is just no foundation at all for saying that temperatures ought to be stable…”

    Climatologists like to claim that this is all unprecedented because, though the temp fluctuations have occurred before, this time the temps are rising mo’ quicker. So it is good to look at this fluctuation within 2 millenia.

    The “plunging” is the the worry there. Bad time to outlaw fire and internal combustion engines, high yield crops, and fertilizer. Leave it to progressive scientists.

  7. p.g.sharrow says:

    Hey Zeke! Climatology is barely 40 years old so anything, everything, can be “unprecedented” to them.
    Every paper is about”new” exciting discoveries in their field, at least to them. Sounds like a bunch of 5 year olds to me. One thing this grumpy old man knows is that warm is good, cold is bad. Although I live in California so, for us, it might be warm and dry, very dry! as well as more earthquakes and volcanism. pg

  8. E.M.Smith says:

    An article that is a great “Dig Here!”, but needs a subscription… here’s the Abstract:

    Correlation of climate cycles in middle Mississippi Valley loess and Greenland ice

    Hong Wang*1,
    Randall E. Hughes*1,
    John D. Steele*1,
    Scott W. Lepley*2 and
    Jian Tian*2

    + Author Affiliations

    1Illinois State Geological Survey, 615 East Peabody Avenue, Champaign, Illinois 61820, USA
    2Department of Geology, University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois 61801, USA


    Two complete late Wisconsin loess successions in the middle Mississippi River Valley reveal 39 and 41 alternating paleosol A- and C-horizons. Striking changes in soil color, iron content, and carbonate content define four major and two minor paleosol A-horizon complexes, which were interpreted to represent Wisconsin interstadials 1, 2, 3, 4, and semiinterstadials 1.5 and 2.5, respectively. The timing of Wisconsin interstadials matches that of corresponding Greenland interstadials. Midcontinent loess and Greenland ice records as well as rates of atmospheric 14C production have periodicities in common, suggesting a solar influence. Only a persistent heat and moisture supply could produce prominent paleosol complexes near the continental ice margin. This record suggests that El Niño–Southern Oscillation variability has amplified solar forcing, and resultant tropical heat and moisture transport played a significant role in millennial- and centennial-scale climate cycles during the late Wisconsin glaciation over the Northern Hemisphere.

    Not only are their “interstadials”, but also “semiinterstadials”… shades of those “1/2 Bond Events” I’d identified… We have a nested series of cycles of variable strengths… Also note the explicit call out of Solar and impacts on C14.

    At least some scientists still exist and have clue…

    Similar article and “abstract only” problem:


    North Atlantic abrupt climatic events of the last glacial period recorded in Ukrainian loess deposits
    Denis-Didier Rousseau; P. Antoine; N. Gerasimenko; A. Sima; M. Fuchs; C. Hatte; O. Moine; L. Zoeller

    North Atlantic abrupt climatic events of the last glacial period recorded in Ukrainian loess deposits
    Rousseau, Denis-Didier
    Antoine, P.
    Gerasimenko, N.
    Sima, A.
    Fuchs, M.
    Hatte, C.
    Moine, O.
    Zoeller, L.
    Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
    Permanent URL:
    Book/Journal Title:
    Climate of the Past
    Loess deposits are widely distributed in the Northern Hemisphere, where they have recorded not only the glacial-interglacial cycles, but also millennial-timescale changes resembling those in marine and ice cores. Such abrupt variations are clearly marked in western European series, but have not yet been evidenced in the East of the continent. Here we present results of the high-resolution investigation of a Weichselian Upper Pleniglacial loess sequence (~38–15 ka) from Stayky, Ukraine. The stratigraphy shows an alternation of loess horizons and embryonic soils, similar to sequences from western Europe. Similarities are also found between variations of a grain-size index (ratio between coarse and fine material fractions) in Stayky and in western European profiles. Based on these similarities and in agreement with the luminescence dates, the embryonic soils are associated with the Greenland interstadials (GIS) 7 to 2, and the Vytachiv paleosol at the base of the sequence, with GIS 8. Pollen analysis indicates a wetter climate for these interstadials, allowing the development of arboreal vegetation, than for the stadials, which are marked by loess formation. The grain-size index reaches the highest values for intervals correlated with the Heinrich events 3 and 2. Thus, it appears that the North Atlantic abrupt climate changes have extended their influence and modulated the loess sedimentation at least as far as eastern Europe. This result is supported by recent climate modeling experiments and recommends the Stayky sequence as a reference for further comparisons between profiles along the Eurasian loess belt centered at 50° N.
    Paleoclimate science
    Publisher DOI:

    Climate is not stable, it changes a LOT and rapidly, CO2 need not apply. Seems pretty clear. Also clear is that it is related to the sun and oceans (likely lunar tidal).

  9. E.M.Smith says:

    And another one… It looks like “interstadials” work has not been corrupted with the CO2 Bug yet… so it is still a good place to find real science.


    Letters to Nature
    Nature 359, 311 – 313 (24 September 1992); doi:10.1038/359311a0

    Irregular glacial interstadials recorded in a new Greenland ice core

    S. J. Johnsen*†, H. B. Clausen*, W. Dansgaard*, K. Fuhrer†, N. Gundestrup*, C. U. Hammer*, P. Iversen*, J. Jouzel§, B. Stauffer‡ & J. P. steffensen*

    *Geophysical Institute, University of Copenhagen, Haraldsgade 6, 2200 Copenhagen N, Denmark
    †Science Institute, University of Reykjavik, Dunhaga 3, Reykjavik 107,Iceland
    ‡Physikalisches Institut, Universitat Bern, Sidlerstrasse 5, Bern 3012, Switzerland
    §Laboratoire de Modelisation du Climat et de (‘Environment, CEA/DSM, CE Saclay 91191; and Laboratoire de Glaciologie et Geophysique de (‘Environment, BP 96, 38402 St Martin d’Heres Cedex, France

    THE Greenland ice sheet offers the most favourable conditions in the Northern Hemisphere for obtaining high-resolution continuous time series of climate-related parameters. Profiles of 18O/<16O ratio along three previous deep Greenland ice cores1–3 seemed to reveal irregular but well-defined episodes of relatively mild climate conditions (interstadials) during the mid and late parts of the last glaciation, but there has been some doubt as to whether the shifts in oxygen isotope ratio were genuine representations of changes in climate, rather than artefacts due to disturbed stratification. Here we present results from a new deep ice core drilled at the summit of the Greenland ice sheet, where the depositional environ-ment and the flow pattern of the ice are close to ideal for core recovery and analysis. The results reproduce the previous findings to such a degree that the existence of the interstadial episodes can no longer be in doubt. According to a preliminary timescale based on stratigraphic studies, the interstadials lasted from 500 to 2,000 years, and their irregular occurrence suggests complexity in the behaviour of the North Atlantic ocean circulation.

    That low end 500 year time scale starts to make this a “could happen any time” kind of event… on a par with the 720 year 1/2 Bond Event scale.

  10. p.g.sharrow says:

    The great Ice Mountains were not caused by cold years. The cause was heavy snows that didn’t quite melt away in the summer. The glacial mountains of the North Pacific coast are not all that cold but they do receive heavy snows, 20 to 100 feet a year! once the ground is well covered melt slows and ice forms. Once the wet snow refreezes it really resists melting. The indication of relatively warm paleo soils near to continental ice seems to be a better indicator then gas isotopes in ice cores of climate changes. Soil chemistry changes quickly due to microbic changes caused by temperature changes.However abrupt deposition, flood or dust storm, would cause a new horizon to be created that might exist under much different moisture and vegetation covering conditions. A lot of moving parts to try and tease out proxies
    Local temperatures can vary greatly due to the existence of local ice/snow fields.But I think that climate has been quite variable over the last few million years. How else would GOD create humans out of monkeys? Have to really challenge them to survive and adapt. ;-) pg

  11. during the ”glacial periods” always was other places warmer than normal, to balance – that’s what the laws of physics say: http://globalwarmingdenier.wordpress.com/climate/

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