Orbital insolation variations, intrinsic climate variability, and Quaternary glaciations

Keno Riechers, Takahito Mitsui, Niklas Boers, Michael Ghil

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The relative role of external forcing and of intrinsic variability is a key question of climate variability in general and of our planet's paleoclimatic past in particular. Over the last 100 years since Milankovic's contributions, the importance of orbital forcing has been established for the period covering the last 2.6gMyr and the Quaternary glaciation cycles that took place during that time. A convincing case has also been made for the role of several internal mechanisms that are active on timescales both shorter and longer than the orbital ones. Such mechanisms clearly have a causal role in Dansgaard-Oeschger and Heinrich events, as well as in the mid-Pleistocene transition. We introduce herein a unified framework for the understanding of the orbital forcing's effects on the climate system's internal variability on timescales from thousands to millions of years. This framework relies on the fairly recent theory of non-autonomous and random dynamical systems, and it has so far been successfully applied in the climate sciences for problems like the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, the oceans' wind-driven circulation, and other problems on interannual to interdecadal timescales. Finally, we provide further examples of climate applications and present preliminary results of interest for the Quaternary glaciation cycles in general and the mid-Pleistocene transition in particular.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)863-893
Number of pages31
JournalClimate of the Past
Issue number4
StatePublished - 21 Apr 2022


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