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North Atlantic forcing of tropical Indian Ocean climate

Abstract

The response of the tropical climate in the Indian Ocean realm to abrupt climate change events in the North Atlantic Ocean is contentious. Repositioning of the intertropical convergence zone is thought to have been responsible for changes in tropical hydroclimate during North Atlantic cold spells1,2,3,4,5, but the dearth of high-resolution records outside the monsoon realm in the Indian Ocean precludes a full understanding of this remote relationship and its underlying mechanisms. Here we show that slowdowns of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation during Heinrich stadials and the Younger Dryas stadial affected the tropical Indian Ocean hydroclimate through changes to the Hadley circulation including a southward shift in the rising branch (the intertropical convergence zone) and an overall weakening over the southern Indian Ocean. Our results are based on new, high-resolution sea surface temperature and seawater oxygen isotope records of well-dated sedimentary archives from the tropical eastern Indian Ocean for the past 45,000 years, combined with climate model simulations of Atlantic circulation slowdown under Marine Isotope Stages 2 and 3 boundary conditions. Similar conditions in the east and west of the basin rule out a zonal dipole structure as the dominant forcing of the tropical Indian Ocean hydroclimate of millennial-scale events. Results from our simulations and proxy data suggest dry conditions in the northern Indian Ocean realm and wet and warm conditions in the southern realm during North Atlantic cold spells.

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Figure 1: Hydroclimate records from the eastern tropical Indian Ocean.
Figure 2: Comparison of East Indian Ocean δ18OSW and SST data with other records of palaeoclimate.
Figure 3: Results from the CCSM3 simulations of Heinrich stadials 1 and 4.

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Acknowledgements

We are grateful to K. Olafsdottir, M. Segl and B. Meyer-Schack for technical support. This study was funded by the German Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (grant 03G0189A) and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG grants HE3412/15-1 and STE1044/4-1, and the DFG Research Centre/Cluster of Excellence ‘The Ocean in the Earth System’). Climate model simulations were performed on the SGI Altix supercomputer of the Norddeutscher Verbund für Hoch- und Höchstleistungsrechnen. D.W.O. is funded by the US NSF, R.D.P.-H. is supported by Chilean FONDAP 15110009/ICM Nucleus NC120066.

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Authors

Contributions

M.M., D.W.O. and A.L. designed the study. M.P., U.M. and X.Z. designed, performed and analysed the climate model experiments. M.M. and S.S. generated and analysed the proxy data. R.D.P.-H., M.M. and D.W.O. were responsible for the radiocarbon analyses. M.M. and M.P. wrote the manuscript; all authors discussed the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Mahyar Mohtadi.

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Extended data figures and tables

Extended Data Figure 1 Instrumental records of temperature and precipitation in the study area.

Records are at or close to the sites 119KL (black) and 39KL (red). a, Average monthly SST for the Simeulue basin (4° N, 96° E; black) and the northern Mentawai basin (2° S, 100° E; red) based on extended reconstruction sea surface temperature (ERSST) data from 1854 to 2008 (http://nomads.ncdc.noaa.gov/las/getUI.do). Dashed lines indicate average SST for the entire period. b, Twenty-four-hour air temperatures measured in Sabang in northwestern Sumatra (from 1976 to 1989; black) and in Padang in western Sumatra (from 1850 to 1989; red; http://climexp.knmi.nl). Dashed lines indicate the average air temperature over the entire period. c, Average monthly precipitation (mm per month) over Banda Aceh in northwestern Sumatra (black) and Padang (red), between 1879 and 1989 (http://climexp.knmi.nl). Open circles represent mean monthly precipitation of different seasons (winter, spring, summer and autumn), with the numbers indicating the percentage contribution of each season to the total annual precipitation. Dashed lines indicate average monthly precipitation for the entire period. Note the small seasonality of SST, air temperature and precipitation in the study area.

Extended Data Figure 2 Seasonality of surface currents, SST and salinity in the eastern Indian Ocean.

Seasonal changes in SST (colour shading), salinity (dashed lines; p.s.u.) and surface currents (arrows) in the study area during boreal summer (top) and winter (bottom). The meridional Ekman transport (ME) is also indicated with arrows. Seasonal SST is averaged for the period between 2002 and 2010 (http://oceancolor.gsfc.nasa.gov/cgi/l3). Salinities are averaged for the period between 1960 and 200431. Surface currents and ME are redrawn following ref. 35. Note the seasonal reversal of the surface currents and the MET, and the small seasonality of SST and salinity off western and northwestern Sumatra. The positions of the cores from the tropical eastern Indian Ocean are indicated by stars (this study). NECC, north equatorial counter current; NMC, northeast monsoon current; SECC, south equatorial counter current; SJC, south Java current; SMC, southwest monsoon current.

Extended Data Figure 3 Sill depths in the study area.

Sill depths of the Simeulue basin (1–3), the Nias basin (4–6) and the northern Mentawai basin (7–9), with the positions of the cores indicated (yellow dots). The maximum depth of each sill is as indicated.

Extended Data Figure 4 Age–depth relationship of the investigated cores.

Core depth (cm) versus calendar age (years) with 2σ errors (bars and yellow envelope) in cores 119KL (a), 144KL (b) and 39KL (c).

Extended Data Figure 5 Estimated errors (1σ) for SST and δ18OSW in core 119KL.

Grey envelopes indicate errors in reconstructions of SST (a) and δ18OSW (b). For comparison, the 39KL records (red) are shown. Grey bars indicate 2σ errors of the calibrated radiocarbon ages (black and red triangles).

Extended Data Figure 6 Mg/Ca SST record of core 39KL for the period 5–29 kyr ago, along with the fitted ramp function (red).

Extended Data Figure 7 AMOC for different climate states, as simulated by CCSM3.

Meridional overturning stream function averaged over the last 100 yr of each experiment for the MIS3 baseline run (a), the H4 hosing experiment (b), the LGM simulation (c), the H1 hosing experiment (d) and the pre-industrial control run (e).

Extended Data Figure 8 Climatic response to a substantial slowdown of the AMOC under LGM (21 kyr ago) boundary conditions in a CCSM3 simulation.

Shown are long-term (100-yr) annual means of climatic anomalies (Heinrich stadial 1 hosing experiments minus LGM baseline run) for surface temperature (a) and vertical velocity (b) at 500 hPa.

Extended Data Figure 9 Summer (June, July and August) precipitation response to a substantial slowdown of the AMOC under MIS3 (38 kyr ago) boundary conditions, as simulated by CCSM3.

Shown are 100-yr averages (Heinrich stadial 4 hosing experiment minus MIS3 baseline run).

Extended Data Figure 10 Upper-tropospheric (200 hPa) wind response to a substantial slowdown of the AMOC (Heinrich stadial 4 hosing experiment minus MIS3 baseline run; 100-yr averages).

a, Summer (June, July and August) response; b, winter (December, January and February) response. Wave trains are highlighted by plus symbols (positive geopotential height anomaly/anticyclonic circulation anomaly) and minus symbols (negative geopotential height anomaly/cyclonic circulation anomaly).

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Supplementary Table 1

This file contains the radiocarbon dataset of the investigated cores. (XLS 36 kb)

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Mohtadi, M., Prange, M., Oppo, D. et al. North Atlantic forcing of tropical Indian Ocean climate. Nature 509, 76–80 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature13196

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