Geophysical Research Letters

Response of the ITCZ to Northern Hemisphere cooling



[1] Climate simulations, using models with different levels of complexity, indicate that the north-south position of the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) responds to changes in interhemispheric temperature contrast. Paleoclimate data on a variety of timescales suggest a similar behavior, with southward displacements of the ITCZ and associated changes in tropical atmospheric circulation during cold periods in the Northern Hemisphere. To identify a mechanism by which ITCZ displacements can be forced from the extratropics, we use a climate model with idealized geography and a simple slab ocean. We cool the northern extratropics and warm the southern extratropics to represent the asymmetric temperature changes associated with glacial-interglacial and millennial-scale climate variability. A southward shift in the ITCZ occurs, along with changes in the trade winds and an asymmetric response of the Hadley circulation. Changes in atmospheric heat exchange between the tropics and midlatitudes are the likely cause of this response, suggesting that this mechanism may play an important role in ITCZ displacements on timescales from decadal to glacial-interglacial.