Letter

Southern Hemisphere climate variability forced by Northern Hemisphere ice-sheet topography

  • Nature volume 554, pages 351355 (15 February 2018)
  • doi:10.1038/nature24669
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Abstract

The presence of large Northern Hemisphere ice sheets and reduced greenhouse gas concentrations during the Last Glacial Maximum fundamentally altered global ocean–atmosphere climate dynamics1. Model simulations and palaeoclimate records suggest that glacial boundary conditions affected the El Niño–Southern Oscillation2,3, a dominant source of short-term global climate variability. Yet little is known about changes in short-term climate variability at mid- to high latitudes. Here we use a high-resolution water isotope record from West Antarctica to demonstrate that interannual to decadal climate variability at high southern latitudes was almost twice as large at the Last Glacial Maximum as during the ensuing Holocene epoch (the past 11,700 years). Climate model simulations indicate that this increased variability reflects an increase in the teleconnection strength between the tropical Pacific and West Antarctica, owing to a shift in the mean location of tropical convection. This shift, in turn, can be attributed to the influence of topography and albedo of the North American ice sheets on atmospheric circulation. As the planet deglaciated, the largest and most abrupt decline in teleconnection strength occurred between approximately 16,000 years and 15,000 years ago, followed by a slower decline into the early Holocene.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by US National Science Foundation (NSF) grants 0537593, 0537661, 0537930, 0539232, 1043092, 1043167, 1043518 and 1142166. Field and logistical activities were managed by the WAIS Divide Science Coordination Office at the Desert Research Institute, USA, and the University of New Hampshire, USA (NSF grants 0230396, 0440817, 0944266 and 0944348). The NSF Division of Polar Programs funded the Ice Drilling Program Office (IDPO), the Ice Drilling Design and Operations (IDDO) group, the National Ice Core Laboratory (NICL), the Antarctic Support Contractor, and the 109th New York Air National Guard. W.H.G.R. was funded by a Leverhulme Trust Research Project Grant. All HadCM3 model simulations were carried out using the computational facilities of the Advanced Computing Research Centre, University of Bristol (http://www.bris.ac.uk/acrc/). We thank P. J. Valdes and J. S. Singarayer for providing their model simulations, as well as the groups that provided climate model data as part of the PMIP2/3.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado 80309-0450, USA

    • T. R. Jones
  2. Bristol Research Initiative for the Dynamic Global Environment and Bristol Glaciology Centre, School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 1SS, UK

    • W. H. G. Roberts
  3. Department of Earth and Space Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195-1310, USA

    • E. J. Steig
    •  & B. R. Markle
  4. Department of Geography, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720, USA

    • K. M. Cuffey
  5. Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research and Department of Geological Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado 80309-0450, USA

    • J. W. C. White

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Contributions

T.R.J., W.H.G.R. and E.J.S. designed the project and led the writing of the paper. T.R.J., J.W.C.W., E.J.S. and B.R.M. contributed water isotope measurements. W.H.G.R. conducted HadCM3 simulations and led model analysis. T.R.J., K.M.C., E.J.S. and J.W.C.W. developed the diffusion-correction calculations. B.R.M. contributed change point detection algorithms and power density ratio calculations. All authors discussed the results and contributed input to the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to T. R. Jones.

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Extended data

Supplementary information

Excel files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Data

    This file contains the HadCM3 simulation summary

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