The importance of precessional signals in the tropical climate

A. C. Clement, A. Hall, A. J. Broccoli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

143 Scopus citations

Abstract

Past research on the climate response to orbital forcing has emphasized the glacial-interglacial variations in global ice volume, global-mean temperature, and the global hydrologic cycle. This emphasis may be inappropriate in the tropics, where the response to precessional forcing is likely to be somewhat independent of the glacial-interglacial variations, particularly in variables relating to the hydrologic cycle. To illustrate this point, we use an atmospheric general circulation model coupled to a slab ocean model, performing experiments that quantify the tropical climate's response to (1) opposite phases of precessional forcing, and (2) Last Glacial Maximum boundary conditions. While the glacially-forced tropical temperature changes are typically more than an order of magnitude larger than those arising from precessional forcing, the hydrologic signals stemming from the two forcings are comparable in magnitude. The mechanisms behind these signals are investigated and shown to be quite distinct for the precessional and glacial forcing. Because of strong dynamical linkages in the tropics, the model results illustrate the impossibility of predicting the local hydrologic response to external forcing without understanding the response at much larger spatial scales. Examples from the paleoclimate record are presented as additional evidence for the importance of precessional signals in past variations of the tropical climate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)327-341
Number of pages15
JournalClimate Dynamics
Volume22
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science

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