Tropical climate variability from the last glacial maximum to the present

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Date
2005-09
Authors
Dahl, Kristina A.
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Location
Intertropical Convergence Zone
Cariaco Basin
Arabian Sea
DOI
10.1575/1912/1711
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Keywords
Marine sediments
Chemical elements
Abstract
This thesis evaluates the nature and magnitude of tropical climate variability from the Last Glacial Maximum to the present. The temporal variability of two specific tropical climate phenomena is examined. The first is the position of the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) in the Atlantic basin, which affects sea surface temperature (SST) and precipitation patterns throughout the tropical Atlantic. The second is the strength of the Indian Monsoon, an important component of both tropical and global climate. Long-term variations in the position of the ITCZ in the Atlantic region are determined using both organic geochemical techniques and climate modeling. Upwelling in Cariaco Basin is reconstructed using chlorin steryl esters as proxies for phytoplankton community structure. We find that the diatom population was larger during the Younger Dryas cold event, indicating that upwelling was enhanced and the mean position of the ITCZ was farther south during the Younger Dryas than it is today. A climate simulation using an ocean-atmosphere general circulation model confirms these results by demonstrating that the ITCZ shifts southward in response to high-latitude cooling. The climate of the Arabian Sea region is dominated by the Indian Monsoon. Results from modem sediments from a suite of cores located throughout the Arabian Sea suggest that wind strength is well represented by the accumulation rate and carbon isotopic composition of terrestrially-derived plant waxes in sediments. Arabian Sea SST patterns, reconstructed from a suite of sediment cores representing four time slices utilizing the Mg/Ca SST proxy, suggest that both the summer and winter monsoons were enhanced 8,000 yr BP relative to today while the summer monsoon was weaker and the winter monsoon stronger at 15,000 and 20,000 yr. These results are confirmed by a time-series reconstruction of SST on the Oman Margin that reveals that SST at this site is sensitive to both regional and global climate processes. The results of this thesis demonstrate that tropical climate, as evaluated by a number of different proxies as well as climate models, has varied substantially over the past 20,000 years and is closely coupled to climate at high-latitudes.
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Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution September, 2005
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Dahl, K. A. (2005). Tropical climate variability from the last glacial maximum to the present [Doctoral thesis, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution]. Woods Hole Open Access Server. https://doi.org/10.1575/1912/1711
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