High resolution simulations of synoptic scale “paleometeorology” during the last glacial maximum
Unterman, Matthew B.
Hourly winter weather conditions of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) are simulated using the Community Climate Model version 3 (CCM3) on a globally resolved T170 (~75 km) grid. This simulation has been run in-tandem with a lower temporally resolved six-year climatological run. The purpose of the study is to determine: (1) whether examination of higher-resolution simulations, on both spatial and temporal scales, can enhance paleometeorological inferences based previously on monthly statistics of model output and (2) whether certain synoptic-scale events, which may have only a modest impact on seasonal statistics, might exert a disproportionate impact on geological climate records. Analysis is focused on changes in wind flow, no analogue climate “states”, synoptic scale events including Northern Hemisphere cyclogenesis, and gust events over glacial dust source regions. Results show a decrease in North Atlantic and increase in North Pacific cyclogenesis during the LGM. Storm trajectories react to the mechanical forcing of the Laurentide Ice Sheet, with Pacific storms tracking over middle Alaska and northern Canada and terminate in the Labrador Sea. The latter result supports observations and other model runs showing a significant reduction in Greenland winter precipitation. The modified Pacific track results in increased precipitation and the delivery of warmer air along the west coast of North America. This could explain “early” glacial warming inferred in this region from proxy climate records, potentially representing instead a natural regional response to ice age boundary conditions. Results also indicate a low variability, “no analogue” region just south of the Laurentide Ice Sheet margin which has appropriate conditions to harbour temperature-sensitive trees west of the Appalachian Mountains. Combined with pollen data, this lends valuable insight into the known disagreement between modern seed dispersal experiments and calculated migration rates. Finally, hourly-scale gust events over dust source regions during the LGM are two to five times greater than the modern, providing a mechanism to help explain the increased glacial dust load seen in the ice cores. Backwards air-parcel trajectories from Antarctic ice core locations show air sources over Patagonia and the Altiplano with some inputs from South Africa agreeing with recent isotopic tracer analyses. Results demonstrate that high temporal and spatial resolution simulations can provide valuable insight to add to the cornucopia of information already available from lower-resolution runs. They can also enhance our interpretation of geological records, which have been previously assumed to record longer time-scale climatological mean-states and thus ignoring any extreme synoptic events which may actually have had a disproportionate impact on their preservation.