Abrupt ice-age shifts in southern westerly winds and Antarctic climate forced from the north
Buizert, C and Sigl, M and Severi, M and Markle, BR and Wettstein, JJ and McConnell, JR and Pedro, JB and Sodemann, H and Goto-Azuma, K and Kawamura, K and Fujita, S and Motoyama, H and Hirabayashi, M and Uemura, R and Stenni, B and Parrenin, F and He, F and Fudge, TJ and Steig, EJ, Abrupt ice-age shifts in southern westerly winds and Antarctic climate forced from the north, Nature, 563, (7733) pp. 681-685. ISSN 0028-0836 (2018) [Refereed Article]
The mid-latitude westerly winds of the Southern Hemisphere play a central role in the global climate system via Southern Ocean upwelling, carbon exchange with the deep ocean, Agulhas leakage (transport of Indian Ocean waters into the Atlantic) and possibly Antarctic ice-sheet stability. Meridional shifts of the Southern Hemisphere westerly winds have been hypothesized to occur in parallel with the well-documented shifts of the intertropical convergence zone in response to Dansgaard-Oeschger (DO) events - abrupt North Atlantic climate change events of the last ice age. Shifting moisture pathways to West Antarctica are consistent with this view but may represent a Pacific teleconnection pattern forced from the tropics. The full response of the Southern Hemisphere atmospheric circulation to the DO cycle and its impact on Antarctic temperature remain unclear. Here we use five ice cores synchronized via volcanic markers to show that the Antarctic temperature response to the DO cycle can be understood as the superposition of two modes: a spatially homogeneous oceanic bipolar seesaw mode that lags behind Northern Hemisphere climate by about 200 years, and a spatially heterogeneous atmospheric mode that is synchronous with abrupt events in the Northern Hemisphere. Temperature anomalies of the atmospheric mode are similar to those associated with present-day Southern Annular Mode variability, rather than the Pacific-South American pattern. Moreover, deuterium-excess records suggest a zonally coherent migration of the Southern Hemisphere westerly winds over all ocean basins in phase with Northern Hemisphere climate. Our work provides a simple conceptual framework for understanding circum-Antarctic temperature variations forced by abrupt Northern Hemisphere climate change. We provide observational evidence of abrupt shifts in the Southern Hemisphere westerly winds, which have previously documented ramifications for global ocean circulation and atmospheric carbon dioxide. These coupled changes highlight the necessity of a global, rather than a purely North Atlantic, perspective on the DO cycle.