North Atlantic storminess and Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation during the last Millennium: Reconciling contradictory proxy records of NAO variability

Valerie M Trouet, J. D. Scourse, C. C. Raible

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125 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Within the last Millennium, the transition between the Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA; ca. 1000-1300. CE) and the Little Ice Age (LIA; ca. 1400-1800. CE) has been recorded in a global array of climatic and oceanographic proxies. In this study, we review proxy evidence for two alternative hypotheses for the effects of this shift in the North Atlantic region. One hypothesis postulates that the MCA/LIA transition included a weakening of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) and a transition to more negative North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) conditions, resulting in a strong cooling of the North Atlantic region. The alternative hypothesis proposes a MCA/LIA shift to an increased number of storms over the North Atlantic linked to increased mid-latitude cyclogenesis and hence a pervasive positive NAO state. The two sets of proxy records and thus of the two competing hypotheses are then reconciled based on available results from climate model simulations of the last Millennium. While an increase in storm frequency implicates positive NAO, increased intensity would be consistent with negative NAO during the LIA. Such an increase in cyclone intensity could have resulted from the steepening of the meridional temperature gradient as the poles cooled more strongly than the Tropics from the MCA into the LIA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)48-55
Number of pages8
JournalGlobal and Planetary Change
Volume84-85
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2012

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meridional circulation
North Atlantic Oscillation
cyclogenesis
Little Ice Age
Medieval
cyclone
temperature gradient
climate modeling
cooling
anomaly
climate
simulation

Keywords

  • Aeolian sand deposition
  • Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation
  • Little Ice Age
  • Maunder Minimum
  • Medieval Climate Anomaly
  • Mid-latitude cyclones
  • North Atlantic Oscillation
  • Storminess

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Oceanography

Cite this

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title = "North Atlantic storminess and Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation during the last Millennium: Reconciling contradictory proxy records of NAO variability",
abstract = "Within the last Millennium, the transition between the Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA; ca. 1000-1300. CE) and the Little Ice Age (LIA; ca. 1400-1800. CE) has been recorded in a global array of climatic and oceanographic proxies. In this study, we review proxy evidence for two alternative hypotheses for the effects of this shift in the North Atlantic region. One hypothesis postulates that the MCA/LIA transition included a weakening of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) and a transition to more negative North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) conditions, resulting in a strong cooling of the North Atlantic region. The alternative hypothesis proposes a MCA/LIA shift to an increased number of storms over the North Atlantic linked to increased mid-latitude cyclogenesis and hence a pervasive positive NAO state. The two sets of proxy records and thus of the two competing hypotheses are then reconciled based on available results from climate model simulations of the last Millennium. While an increase in storm frequency implicates positive NAO, increased intensity would be consistent with negative NAO during the LIA. Such an increase in cyclone intensity could have resulted from the steepening of the meridional temperature gradient as the poles cooled more strongly than the Tropics from the MCA into the LIA.",
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AU - Scourse, J. D.

AU - Raible, C. C.

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AB - Within the last Millennium, the transition between the Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA; ca. 1000-1300. CE) and the Little Ice Age (LIA; ca. 1400-1800. CE) has been recorded in a global array of climatic and oceanographic proxies. In this study, we review proxy evidence for two alternative hypotheses for the effects of this shift in the North Atlantic region. One hypothesis postulates that the MCA/LIA transition included a weakening of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) and a transition to more negative North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) conditions, resulting in a strong cooling of the North Atlantic region. The alternative hypothesis proposes a MCA/LIA shift to an increased number of storms over the North Atlantic linked to increased mid-latitude cyclogenesis and hence a pervasive positive NAO state. The two sets of proxy records and thus of the two competing hypotheses are then reconciled based on available results from climate model simulations of the last Millennium. While an increase in storm frequency implicates positive NAO, increased intensity would be consistent with negative NAO during the LIA. Such an increase in cyclone intensity could have resulted from the steepening of the meridional temperature gradient as the poles cooled more strongly than the Tropics from the MCA into the LIA.

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