Tropical Atlantic climate response to low-latitude and extratropical sea-surface temperature: A Little Ice Age perspective



[1] Proxy reconstructions and model simulations suggest that steeper interhemispheric sea surface temperature (SST) gradients lead to southerly Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) migrations during periods of North Atlantic cooling, the most recent of which was the Little Ice Age (LIA; ∼100–450 yBP). Evidence suggesting low-latitude Atlantic cooling during the LIA was relatively small (<1°C) raises the possibility that the ITCZ may have responded to a hemispheric SST gradient originating in the extratropics. We use an atmospheric general circulation model (AGCM) to investigate the relative influence of low-latitude and extratropical SSTs on the meridional position of the ITCZ. Our results suggest that the ITCZ responds primarily to local, low-latitude SST anomalies and that small cool anomalies (<0.5°C) can reproduce the LIA precipitation pattern suggested by paleoclimate proxies. Conversely, even large extratropical cooling does not significantly impact low-latitude hydrology in the absence of ocean-atmosphere interaction.