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A Numerical Study on the Atmospheric Circulation over the Midlatitude North Pacific during the Last Glacial Maximum

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  • 1 Center for Climate System Research, The University of Tokyo, Kashiwa, Japan
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Abstract

The dynamics of the atmospheric circulation change over the midlatitude North Pacific under the boundary conditions during the last glacial maximum (LGM) have been studied by atmospheric general circulation models (GCMs) with different ocean feedbacks. Three boundary conditions in the LGM were different from those of the present day (PD): ice sheet with elevated topography and high albedo, atmospheric CO2 concentration, and insolation. The ocean component was treated as follows: a full-circulation ocean with dynamical and thermal ocean feedback [coupled general circulation model (CGCM)]; a slab ocean only with thermal feedback used to calculate the surface heat balance [slab ocean GCM (SGCM)]; and no ocean feedback by fixing sea surface temperature (SST) with pure atmospheric dynamics (AGCM). Both CGCM and SGCM simulated a weakened Pacific high pressure system in boreal summer during the LGM compared to the PD and an intensified Aleutian low pressure system in winter. Both in summer and winter, therefore, the lower-tropospheric circulation during the LGM showed midlatitude North Pacific cyclonic anomalies (NPCAs).

To understand the dynamics determining the NPCAs, the sensitivity of the atmospheric response to the three boundary conditions were examined using the SGCM. It was shown that the high albedo of the ice sheet over North America was the dominant factor behind the NPCAs in both summer and winter. The ocean thermal feedback in winter played an essential role in the formation of the NPCA through SST change, while the ocean thermal feedback in summer and ocean dynamical feedback played secondary roles in the intensification of the NPCA. Possible mechanisms were inferred from the common features related to the NPCA formation in the experiments. In summer, the midlatitude NPCA was associated with the reduced land–ocean contrast of diabatic heating between the North Pacific and North America, which is consistent with theoretical studies on the mechanism for formation of subtropical high pressure systems. In winter, on the other hand, the anomaly of the SST gradient at midlatitude is thought to result in the NPCA through the modulation of heat and momentum transport in the storm track.

The small (large) sensitivity of the NPCA formation to the ocean feedbacks in summer (winter) explains the strong (weak) consistency among the previous GCM experiments. Since the NPCAs are consistent with some geological records, the present study should be informative in understanding the actual dynamics of the LGM climate change.

Corresponding author address: Wataru Yanase, Center for Climate System Research, The University of Tokyo, General Research Building, 5-1-5, Kashiwanoha, Kashiwa, Chiba 277-8568, Japan. Email: yanase@ori.u-tokyo.ac.jp

Abstract

The dynamics of the atmospheric circulation change over the midlatitude North Pacific under the boundary conditions during the last glacial maximum (LGM) have been studied by atmospheric general circulation models (GCMs) with different ocean feedbacks. Three boundary conditions in the LGM were different from those of the present day (PD): ice sheet with elevated topography and high albedo, atmospheric CO2 concentration, and insolation. The ocean component was treated as follows: a full-circulation ocean with dynamical and thermal ocean feedback [coupled general circulation model (CGCM)]; a slab ocean only with thermal feedback used to calculate the surface heat balance [slab ocean GCM (SGCM)]; and no ocean feedback by fixing sea surface temperature (SST) with pure atmospheric dynamics (AGCM). Both CGCM and SGCM simulated a weakened Pacific high pressure system in boreal summer during the LGM compared to the PD and an intensified Aleutian low pressure system in winter. Both in summer and winter, therefore, the lower-tropospheric circulation during the LGM showed midlatitude North Pacific cyclonic anomalies (NPCAs).

To understand the dynamics determining the NPCAs, the sensitivity of the atmospheric response to the three boundary conditions were examined using the SGCM. It was shown that the high albedo of the ice sheet over North America was the dominant factor behind the NPCAs in both summer and winter. The ocean thermal feedback in winter played an essential role in the formation of the NPCA through SST change, while the ocean thermal feedback in summer and ocean dynamical feedback played secondary roles in the intensification of the NPCA. Possible mechanisms were inferred from the common features related to the NPCA formation in the experiments. In summer, the midlatitude NPCA was associated with the reduced land–ocean contrast of diabatic heating between the North Pacific and North America, which is consistent with theoretical studies on the mechanism for formation of subtropical high pressure systems. In winter, on the other hand, the anomaly of the SST gradient at midlatitude is thought to result in the NPCA through the modulation of heat and momentum transport in the storm track.

The small (large) sensitivity of the NPCA formation to the ocean feedbacks in summer (winter) explains the strong (weak) consistency among the previous GCM experiments. Since the NPCAs are consistent with some geological records, the present study should be informative in understanding the actual dynamics of the LGM climate change.

Corresponding author address: Wataru Yanase, Center for Climate System Research, The University of Tokyo, General Research Building, 5-1-5, Kashiwanoha, Kashiwa, Chiba 277-8568, Japan. Email: yanase@ori.u-tokyo.ac.jp

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