The Southern Westerlies during the last glacial maximum in PMIP2 simulations
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The Southern Hemisphere westerly winds are an important component of the climate system at hemispheric and global scales. Variations in their intensity and latitudinal position through an ice-age cycle have been proposed as important drivers of global climate change due to their influence on deep-ocean circulation and changes in atmospheric CO2. The position, intensity, and associated climatology of the southern westerlies during the last glacial maximum (LGM), however, is still poorly understood from empirical and modelling standpoints. Here we analyse the behaviour of the southern westerlies during the LGM using four coupled ocean-atmosphere simulations carried out by the Palaeoclimate Modelling Intercomparison Project Phase 2 (PMIP2). We analysed the atmospheric circulation by direct inspection of the winds and by using a cyclone tracking software to indicate storm tracks. The models suggest that changes were most significant during winter and over the Pacific ocean. For this season and region, three out four models indicate decreased wind intensities at the near surface as well as in the upper troposphere. Although the LGM atmosphere is colder and the equator to pole surface temperature gradient generally increases, the tropospheric temperature gradients actually decrease, explaining the weaker circulation. We evaluated the atmospheric influence on the Southern Ocean by examining the effect of wind stress on the Ekman pumping. Again, three of the models indicate decreased upwelling in a latitudinal band over the Southern Ocean. All models indicate a drier LGM than at present with a clear decrease in precipitation south of 40°S over the oceans. We identify important differences in precipitation anomalies over the land masses at regional scale, including a drier climate over New Zealand and wetter over NW Patagonia.
KeywordsWind Stress Southern Ocean Last Glacial Maximum Storm Track South Pacific Convergence Zone
We acknowledge the international modelling groups for providing their data for analysis, the Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement (LSCE) for collecting and archiving the model data. The PMIP2/MOTIF Data Archive is supported by CEA, CNRS, the EU project MOTIF (EVK2-CT-2002-00153) and the Programme National d’Etude de la Dynamique du Climat (PNEDC). The analyses were performed using version mm-dd-yyyy of the database. More information is available on http://pmip2.lsce.ipsl.fr/ and http://motif.lsce.ipsl.fr. This investigation was supported by the FONDECYT grant # 1050416 and Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity, IEB. M. Rojas also thanks the ACT19 project. Disussion with Aldo Montecino on the ocean analysis and comments of two anonymous reviewers contributed greatly to the final version of the paper.
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