Wind‐Driven Evolution of the North Pacific Subpolar Gyre Over the Last Deglaciation

William R. Gray, Robert C. J. Wills, James W. B. Rae, Andrea Burke, Ruza F. Ivanovic, William H. G. Roberts, David Ferreira, Paul J. Valdes

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North Pacific atmospheric and oceanic circulations are key missing pieces in our understanding of the reorganization of the global climate system since the Last Glacial Maximum. Here, using a basin‐wide compilation of planktic foraminiferal δ18O, we show that the North Pacific subpolar gyre extended ~3° further south during the Last Glacial Maximum, consistent with sea surface temperature and productivity proxy data. Climate models indicate that the expansion of the subpolar gyre was associated with a substantial gyre strengthening, and that these gyre circulation changes were driven by a southward shift of the midlatitude westerlies and increased wind stress from the polar easterlies. Using single‐forcing model runs, we show that these atmospheric circulation changes are a nonlinear response to ice sheet topography/albedo and CO2. Our reconstruction indicates that the gyre boundary (and thus westerly winds) began to migrate northward at ~16.5 ka, driving changes in ocean heat transport, biogeochemistry, and North American hydroclimate.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2019GL086328
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number6
Early online date17 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - 28 Mar 2020


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