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Split westerlies over Europe in the early Little Ice Age

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The Little Ice Age (LIA; ca. 1450-1850 C.E.) is the best documented cold period of the past millennium, characterized by high-frequency volcanism, low solar activity, and high variability of Arctic sea-ice cover. Past studies of LIA Atlantic circulation changes have referenced the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), but recent studies have noted that LIA climate patterns appear to possess complexity not captured by an NAO analogue. Here, we present a new precipitation-sensitive stalagmite record from northern Italy that covers the past 800 years. We show that in the early LIA (1470-1610 C.E.), increased atmospheric ridging over northern Europe split the climatological westerlies away from central and northern Europe, possibly caused by concurrent Artic sea-ice reduction. With ongoing ice melting in the northern high latitudes and decreasing solar irradiance in the coming years, the early LIA may potentially serve as an analogue for European hydroclimatic conditions in the coming decades.

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