The commonly held view of the conditions in the North Atlantic at the last glacial maximum, based on the interpretation of proxy records, is of large-scale cooling compared to today, limited deep convection, and extensive sea ice, all associated with a southward displaced and weakened overturning thermohaline circulation (THC) in the North Atlantic. Not all studies support that view; in particular, the "strength of the overturning circulation" is contentious and is a quantity that is difficult to determine even for the present day. Quasi-equilibrium simulations with coupled climate models forced by glacial boundary conditions have produced differing results, as have inferences made from proxy records. Most studies suggest the weaker circulation, some suggest little or no change, and a few suggest a stronger circulation. Here results are presented from a three-dimensional climate model, the Hadley Centre Coupled Model version 3 (HadCM3), of the coupled atmosphere-ocean-sea ice system suggesting, in a qualitative sense, that these diverging views could all have occurred at different times during the last glacial period, with different modes existing at different times. One mode might have been characterized by an active THC associated with moderate temperatures in the North Atlantic and a modest expanse of sea ice. The other mode, perhaps forced by large inputs of meltwater from the continental ice sheets into the northern North Atlantic, might have been characterized by a sluggish THC associated with very cold conditions around the North Atlantic and a large areal cover of sea ice. The authors' model simulation of such a mode, forced by a large input of freshwater, bears several of the characteristics of the Climate: Long-range Investigation, Mappm and Prediction (CLIMAP) Project's reconstruction of glacial sea surface temperature and sea ice extent.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Atmospheric Science