The CLIMAP project's reconstruction of past sea surface temperature inferred limited ice-age cooling in the tropical oceans. This conclusion has been controversial, however, because of the greater cooling indicated by other terrestrial and ocean proxy data. A new faunal sea surface temperature reconstruction, calibrated using the variation of foraminiferal species through time, better represents ice-age faunal assemblages and so reveals greater cooling than CLIMAP in the equatorial current systems of the eastern Pacific and tropical Atlantic oceans. Here we explore the climatic implications of this revised sea surface temperature field for the Last Glacial Maximum using an atmospheric general circulation model. Relative to model results obtained using CLIMAP sea surface temperatures, the cooler equatorial oceans modify seasonal air temperatures by 1-2??C or more across parts of South America, Africa and southeast Asia and cause attendant changes in regional moisture patterns. In our simulation of the Last Glacial Maximum, the Amazon lowlands, for example, are cooler and drier, whereas the Andean highlands are cooler and wetter than the control simulation. Our results may help to resolve some of the apparent disagreements between oceanic and continental proxy climate data. Moreover, they suggest a wind-related mechanism for enhancing the export of water vapour from the Atlantic to the Indo-Pacific oceans, which may link variations in deep-water production and high-latitude climate changes to equatorial sea surface temperatures.
Additional publication details
Reassessment of ice-age cooling of the tropical ocean and atmosphere