Tropical climates at the Last Glacial Maximum: a new synthesis of terrestrial palaeoclimate data. I. Vegetation, lake levels and geochemistry

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Climate Dynamics
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Palaeodata in synthesis form are needed as benchmarks for the Palaeoclimate Modelling Intercomparison Project (PMIP), Advances since the last synthesis of terrestrial palaeodata from the last glacial maximum (LGM) call for a new evaluation, especially of data from the tropics. Here pollen, plant-macrofossil, lake-level, noble gas (from groundwater) and delta(18)O (from speleothems) data are compiled for 18 +/- 2 ka (C-14), 32 degrees N-33 degrees S. The reliability of the data was evaluated using explicit criteria and some types of data were re-analysed using consistent methods in order to derive a set of mutually consistent palaeoclimate estimates of mean temperature of the coldest month (MTCO), mean annual temperature (MAT), plant available moisture (PAM) and runoff (P-E). Cold-month temperature (MAT) anomalies from plant data range from -1 to -2 K near sea level in Indonesia and the S Pacific, through -6 to -8 K at many high-elevation sites to -8 to -15K in S China and the SE USA. MAT anomalies from groundwater or speleothems seem more uniform (-4 to -6 K), but the data are as yet sparse; a clear divergence between MAT and cold-month estimates from the same region is seen only in the SE USA, where cold-air advection is expected to have enhanced cooling in winter. Regression of all cold-month anomalies against site elevation yielded an estimated average cooling of - 2.5 to - 3 K at modern sea level, increasing to approximate to - 6 K by 3000m. How ever, Neotropical sites showed larger than the average sea-level cooling (- 5 to - 6 K) and a non-significant elevation effect, whereas W and S Pacific sites showed much less sea-level cooling (- 1 K) and a stronger elevation effect. These findings support the inference that tropical sea-surface temperatures (SSTs) were lower than the CLIMAP estimates, but they limit the plausible average tropical sea-surface cooling, and they support the existence of CLIMAP-like geographic patterns in SST anomalies. Trends of PAM and lake levels indicate wet LGM conditions in the W USA, and at the highest elevations, with generally dry conditions elsewhere. These results suggest a colder-than-present ocean surface producing a weaker hydrological cycle, more arid continents, and arguably steeper-than-present terrestrial lapse rates. Such linkages are supported by recent observations on freezing-level height and tropical SSTs, moreover, simulations of "greenhouse" and LGM climates point to several possible feedback processes by which low-level temperature anomalies might be amplified aloft.


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