Pontus Lurcock and Fabio Florindo
Antarctic climate changes have been reconstructed from ice and sediment cores and numerical models (which also predict future changes). Major ice sheets first appeared 34 million years ago (Ma) and fluctuated throughout the Oligocene, with an overall cooling trend. Ice volume more than doubled at the Oligocene-Miocene boundary. Fluctuating Miocene temperatures peaked at 17–14 Ma, followed by dramatic cooling. Cooling continued through the Pliocene and Pleistocene, with another major glacial expansion at 3–2 Ma. Several interacting drivers control Antarctic climate. On timescales of 10,000–100,000 years, insolation varies with orbital cycles, causing periodic climate variations. Opening of Southern Ocean gateways produced a circumpolar current that thermally isolated Antarctica. Declining atmospheric CO2 triggered Cenozoic glaciation. Antarctic glaciations affect global climate by lowering sea level, intensifying atmospheric circulation, and increasing planetary albedo. Ice sheets interact with ocean water, forming water masses that play a key role in global ocean circulation.