- The Antarctic contribution to sea level is a balance between ice loss along the margin and accumulation in the interior. Accumulation records for the past few decades are noisy and show inconsistent relationships with temperature. We investigate the relationship between accumulation and temperature for the past 31 ka using high-resolution records from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Divide ice core in West Antarctica. Although the glacial-interglacial increases result in high correlation and moderate sensitivity for the full record, the relationship shows considerable variability through time with high correlation and high sensitivity for the 0–8 ka period but no correlation for the 8–15 ka period. This contrasts with a general circulation model simulation which shows homogeneous sensitivities between temperature and accumulation across the entire time period. These results suggest that variations in atmospheric circulation are an important driver of Antarctic accumulation but they are not adequately captured in model simulations. Model-based projections of future Antarctic accumulation, and its impact on sea level, should be treated with caution.