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Thermodynamic and Dynamic Causes of Pluvial Conditions During the Last Glacial Maximum in Western North America
  • Published Date:
    2018
  • Source:
    Geophysical Research Letters, 45(1), 335-345.
Filetype[PDF-1.14 MB]


Details:
  • Description:
    During the last glacial period, precipitation minus evaporation increased across the currently arid western United States. These pluvial conditions have been commonly explained for decades by a southward deflection of the jet stream by the Laurentide Ice Sheet. Here analysis of state-of-the-art coupled climate models shows that effects of the Laurentide Ice Sheet on the mean circulation were more important than storm track changes in generating wet conditions. Namely, strong cooling by the ice sheet significantly reduced humidity over land, increasing moisture advection in the westerlies due to steepened humidity gradients. Additionally, the removal of moisture from the atmosphere by mass divergence associated with the subtropical high was diminished at the Last Glacial Maximum compared to present. These same dynamic and thermodynamic factors, working in the opposite direction, are projected to cause regional drying in western North America under increased greenhouse gas concentrations, indicating continuity from past to future in the mechanisms altering hydroclimate.

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