During the last glacial period, the North Atlantic region experienced a series of Dansgaard–Oeschger cycles in which climate abruptly alternated between warm and cold periods. Corresponding variations in Antarctic surface temperature were out of phase with their Northern Hemisphere counterparts. The temperature relationship between the hemispheres is commonly attributed to an interhemispheric redistribution of heat by the ocean overturning circulation. Changes in ocean heat transport should be accompanied by changes in atmospheric circulation to satisfy global energy budget constraints. Although changes in tropical atmospheric circulation linked to abrupt events in the Northern Hemisphere are well documented, evidence for predicted changes in the Southern Hemisphere’s atmospheric circulation during Dansgaard–Oeschger cycles is lacking. Here we use a high-resolution deuterium-excess record from West Antarctica to show that the latitude of the mean moisture source for Antarctic precipitation changed in phase with abrupt shifts in Northern Hemisphere climate, and significantly before Antarctic temperature change. This provides direct evidence that Southern Hemisphere mid-latitude storm tracks shifted within decades of abrupt changes in the North Atlantic, in parallel with meridional migrations of the intertropical convergence zone. We conclude that both oceanic and atmospheric processes, operating on different timescales, link the hemispheres during abrupt climate change.
At a glance
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