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A Tropical Mechanism for Northern Hemisphere Deglaciation

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posted on 2022-04-06, 10:43 authored by Gerrit LohmannGerrit Lohmann
Figure illustrating surface air temperature differences caused by a warming of tropical SST from glacial conditions

We investigate the role of the tropics in the melting and reforming of the Laurentide ice sheet on glacial timescales using an atmospheric general circulation model. It is found that warming of tropical sea surface temperatures (SST) from glacial boundary conditions, as observed at the end of glacial periods, causes a large increase in summer temperatures centered over the ice-sheet-forming regions of Canada. This high latitude response to tropical change is due to relatively small changes in the circulation of the extratropical atmosphere which lead to changes in the vertical profiles of temperature and moisture in the extratropical atmosphere. These changes via an atmospheric bridge between the tropics and extratropics represent a mechanism for deglaciations which is consistent with timing constraints. In contrast, a cold perturbation to tropical SST for interglacial boundary conditions results in very little change in circulation and almost no cooling over the Canadian region. This implies that tropical SSTs could play a more important role in melting ice sheets in the northern hemisphere than in reforming them, possibly providing a mechanism which could help to explain the relative rapidity of deglaciation.

Rodgers, K., Lohmann, G., Lorenz, S., Schneider, R., and Henderson, G., 2003: A Tropical Mechanism for Northern Hemisphere Deglaciation. Geochem., Geophys., Geosyst., 4(5), 1046, doi: 10.1029/2003GC0000508.

Lohmann, G., and Lorenz, S., 2000: On the hydrological cycle under paleoclimatic conditionsas derived from AGCM simulations. Journal of Geophysical Research, 105, no. D13, 17,417-436.


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