Sensitivity of Last Glacial Maximum climate to uncertainties in tropical and subtropical ocean temperatures

Quaternary Science Reviews
By: , and 



The faunal and floral gradients that underlie the CLIMAP (1981) sea-surface temperature (SST) reconstructions for the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) reflect ocean temperature gradients and frontal positions. The transfer functions used to reconstruct SSTs from biologic gradients are biased, however, because at the warmest sites they display inherently low sensitivity in translating fauna to SST and they underestimate SST within the euphotic zones where the pycnocline is strong. Here we assemble available data and apply a statistical approach to adjust for hypothetical biases in the faunal-based SST estimates of LGM temperature. The largest bias adjustments are distributed in the tropics (to address low sensitivity) and subtropics (to address underestimation in the euphotic zones). The resulting SSTs are generally in better agreement than CLIMAP with recent geochemical estimates of glacial-interglacial temperature changes. We conducted a series of model experiments using the GENESIS general atmospheric circulation model to assess the sensitivity of the climate system to our bias-adjusted SSTs. Globally, the new SST field results in a modeled LGM surface-air cooling relative to present of 6.4 ??C (1.9 ??C cooler than that of CLIMAP). Relative to the simulation with CLIMAP SSTs, modeled precipitation over the oceans is reduced by 0.4 mm d-1 (an anomaly -0.4 versus 0.0 mm d-1 for CLIMAP) and increased over land (an anomaly -0.2 versus -0.5 mm d-1 for CLIMAP). Regionally strong responses are induced by changes in SST gradients. Data-model comparisons indicate improvement in agreement relative to CLIMAP, but differences among terrestrial data inferences and simulated moisture and temperature remain. Our SSTs result in positive mass balance over the northern hemisphere ice sheets (primarily through reduced summer ablation), supporting the hypothesis that tropical and subtropical ocean temperatures may have played a role in triggering glacial changes at higher latitudes.
Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Sensitivity of Last Glacial Maximum climate to uncertainties in tropical and subtropical ocean temperatures
Series title Quaternary Science Reviews
DOI 10.1016/j.quascirev.2005.12.010
Volume 25
Issue 11-12
Year Published 2006
Language English
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Quaternary Science Reviews
First page 1168
Last page 1185
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