The Sun and Natural Variability Drive Climate Changes

Hong Yan, Wei Wei, Willie Soon, Zhisheng An, Weijian Zhou, Zhonghui Liu, Yuhong Wang, Robert M. Carter. Dynamics of the intertropical convergence zone over the western Pacific during the Little Ice Age Nature Geoscience (2015) doi:10.1038/ngeo2375

Precipitation in low latitudes is primarily controlled by the position of the intertropical convergence zone, which migrates from south to north seasonally. The Little Ice Age (defined as AD 1400–1850) was associated with low solar irradiance and high atmospheric aerosol concentrations as a result of several large volcanic eruptions. The mean position of the intertropical convergence zone over the western Pacific has been proposed to have shifted southwards during this interval, which would lead to relatively dry Little Ice Age conditions in the northern extent of the intertropical convergence zone and wet conditions around its southern limit. However, here we present a synthesis of palaeo-hydrology records from the Asian–Australian monsoon area that documents a rainfall distribution that distinctly violates the expected pattern. Our synthesis instead documents a synchronous retreat of the East Asian Summer Monsoon and the Australian Summer Monsoon into the tropics during the Little Ice Age, a pattern supported by the results of our climate model simulation of tropical precipitation over the past millennium. We suggest that this pattern over the western Pacific is best explained by a contraction in the latitudinal range over which the intertropical convergence zone seasonally migrates during the Little Ice Age. We therefore propose that rather than a strict north–south migration, the intertropical convergence zone in this region may instead expand and contract over decadal to centennial timescales in response to external forcing.

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