To advance our knowledge of the response of midlatitude westerlies to various external forcings, we investigate the meridional shift of midlatitude westerlies over arid central Asia (ACA) during the past 21 000 years, which experienced more varied forcings than the present day based on a set of transient simulations. Our results suggest that the evolution of midlatitude westerlies over ACA and driving factors vary with time and across seasons. In spring, the location of midlatitude westerlies over ACA oscillates largely during the last deglaciation, driven by meltwater fluxes and continental ice sheets, and then shows a long-term equatorward shift during the Holocene controlled by orbital insolation. In summer, orbital insolation dominates the meridional shift of midlatitude westerlies, with poleward and equatorward migration during the last deglaciation and the Holocene, respectively. From a thermodynamic perspective, variations in zonal winds are linked with the meridional temperature gradient based on the thermal wind relationship. From a dynamic perspective, variations in midlatitude westerlies are mainly induced by anomalous sea surface temperatures over the Indian Ocean through the Matsuno–Gill response and over the North Atlantic Ocean by the propagation of Rossby waves, or both, but their relative importance varies across forcings. Additionally, the modeled meridional shift of midlatitude westerlies is broadly consistent with geological evidence, although model–data discrepancies still exist. Overall, our study provides a possible scenario for a meridional shift of midlatitude westerlies over ACA in response to various external forcings during the past 21 000 years and highlights important roles of both the Indian Ocean and the North Atlantic Ocean in regulating Asian westerlies, which may shed light on the behavior of westerlies in the future.

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