Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Past tropical climate change linked to ocean circulation

Date:
August 23, 2012
Source:
Texas A&M University
Summary:
A new record of past temperature change in the tropical Atlantic Ocean's subsurface provides clues as to why the Earth's climate is so sensitive to ocean circulation patterns.

Image of a live foraminifera.
Credit: Howard Spero at University of California Davis

A new record of past temperature change in the tropical Atlantic Ocean's subsurface provides clues as to why Earth's climate is so sensitive to ocean circulation patterns, according to climate scientists at Texas A&M University.

Geological oceanographer Matthew Schmidt and two of his graduate students teamed up with Ping Chang, a physical oceanographer and climate modeler, to help uncover an important climate connection between the tropics and the high latitude North Atlantic. Their new findings are in the current issue of PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).

The researchers used geochemical clues in fossils called foraminifera, tiny sea creatures with a hard shell, collected from a sediment core located off the northern coast of Venezuela, to generate a 22,000-year record of past ocean temperature and salinity changes in the upper 1,500 feet of water in the western tropical Atlantic. They also conducted global climate model simulations under the past climate condition to interpret this new observational record in the context of changes in the strength of the global ocean conveyor-belt circulation.

"What we found was that subsurface temperatures in the western tropical Atlantic rapidly warmed during cold periods in Earth's past," Schmidt explains.

"Together with our new modeling experiments, we think this is evidence that when the global conveyor slowed down during cold periods in the past, warm subsurface waters that are normally trapped in the subtropical North Atlantic flowed southward and rapidly warmed the deep tropics. When the tropics warmed, it altered climate patterns around the globe."

He notes that as an example, if ocean temperatures were to warm along the west coast of Africa, the monsoon rainfall in that region would be dramatically reduced, affecting millions of people living in sub-Saharan Africa. The researchers also point out that the southward flow of ocean heat during cold periods in the North Atlantic also causes the band of rainfall in the tropics known as the Intertropical Convergence Zone to migrate southward, resulting in much drier conditions in northern South American countries and a wetter South Atlantic.

"Evidence is mounting that the Earth's climate system has sensitive triggers that can cause abrupt and dramatic shifts in global climate," Schmidt said.

"What we found in our subsurface reconstruction was that the onset of warmer temperatures, thought to reflect the opening of this 'gateway' mechanism, occurred in less than a few centuries. It also tells us that it might be a good idea to monitor subsurface temperatures in the western tropical Atlantic to assess how the strength of the ocean conveyor might be changing over the next few decades as Earth's climate continues to warm."

"One way to prepare for future climate change is to increase our understanding of how it has operated in the recent past."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Texas A&M University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. M. W. Schmidt, P. Chang, J. E. Hertzberg, T. R. Them, L. J, B. L. Otto-Bliesner. Impact of abrupt deglacial climate change on tropical Atlantic subsurface temperatures. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2012; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1207806109

Cite This Page:

Texas A&M University. "Past tropical climate change linked to ocean circulation." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 August 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120823143753.htm>.
Texas A&M University. (2012, August 23). Past tropical climate change linked to ocean circulation. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120823143753.htm
Texas A&M University. "Past tropical climate change linked to ocean circulation." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120823143753.htm (accessed September 17, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) — Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) — A Texas man is lucky to be alive after he and three others floated for more than a day in the Gulf of Mexico when their boat sank during a fishing trip. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) — Federal researchers are exploring more than a dozen underwater sites where they believe ships sank in the treacherous waters west of San Francisco in the decades following the Gold Rush. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Isolated N. Korea Asks For International Help With Volcano

Isolated N. Korea Asks For International Help With Volcano

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) — Mount Paektu volcano in North Korea is showing signs of life and there's not much known about it. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:  

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile iPhone Android Web
    Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins