Glacial-Interglacial Precipitation Changes.


Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA; email: [Email]


Glacial-interglacial cycles have constituted a primary mode of climate variability over the last 2.6 million years of Earth's history. While glacial periods cannot be seen simply as a reverse analogue of future warming, they offer an opportunity to test our understanding of the response of precipitation patterns to a much wider range of conditions than we have been able to directly observe. This review explores key features of precipitation patterns associated with glacial climates, which include drying in large regions of the tropics and wetter conditions in substantial parts of the subtropics and midlatitudes. I describe the evidence for these changes and examine the potential causes of hydrological changes during glacial periods. Central themes that emerge include the importance of atmospheric circulation changes in determining glacial-interglacial precipitation changes at the regional scale, the need to take into account climatic factors beyond local precipitation amount when interpreting proxy data, and the role of glacial conditions in suppressing the strength of Northern Hemisphere monsoon systems.


atmospheric circulation,glacial cycles,monsoons,paleoclimate,precipitation,

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