Global ocean heat content in the Last Interglacial
The Last Interglacial (129-116 ka) represents one of the warmest climate intervals of the last 800,000 years and the most recent time when sea level was meters higher than today. However, the timing and magnitude of peak warmth varies between reconstructions, and the relative importance of individual sources contributing to elevated sea level (mass gain versus seawater expansion) during the Last Interglacial remains uncertain. Here we present the first mean ocean temperature record for this interval from noble gas measurements in ice cores and constrain the thermal expansion contribution to sea level. Mean ocean temperature reaches its maximum value of 1.1±0.3°C warmer-than-modern at the end of the penultimate deglaciation at 129 ka, resulting in 0.7±0.3m of elevated sea level, relative to present. However, this maximum in ocean heat content is a transient feature; mean ocean temperature decreases in the first several thousand years of the interglacial and achieves a stable, comparable-to-modern value by ~127 ka. The synchroneity of the peak in mean ocean temperature with proxy records of abrupt transitions in oceanic and atmospheric circulation suggests that the mean ocean temperature maximum is related to the accumulation of heat in the ocean interior during the preceding period of reduced overturning circulation.