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Tropical Pacific response to continental ice sheet topography


The last glacial maximum was marked by maximum land ice extent and lowest greenhouse gases concentration during the last ice age. We explore the impact of glacial continental ice sheet topography on the large-scale tropical ocean–atmosphere climate, in particular the tropical Pacific, in an intermediate complexity coupled model. Increasing the thickness of continental ice sheets causes a southward displaced Pacific Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) and a strengthening (weakening) of northern (southern) hemisphere winter Hadley cell. The equatorial zonal sea surface temperature gradient weakened with an increased continental ice sheets thickness, the reduction being caused by cooling in the western equatorial Pacific and warming in the eastern equatorial Pacific. The evolution of the tropical climate with changing ice thickness has distinct quasi-linear and nonlinear parts. While the linear part is a direct response to the ice topographic changes, the nonlinear part was a result of the tropical thermocline adjustment. Our analysis of a fully-coupled transient deglacial simulation strongly indicates the dominant role of ice sheet topography in determining the deglacial evolution of the simulated Pacific climate. The thickness of continental ice sheet, separate from ice albedo effect, has significant impact on the tropical ocean–atmosphere climate in particular with the meridional displacement in the Pacific ITCZ. The altered circulation states seen in the model may aid understanding of the relationship between tropical and high-latitude climate records in glacial-interglacial cycles.

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