How North Atlantic cooling alters Southern Ocean wind



[1] At least seven times during the last ice age, large portions of the polar glaciers crumbled, sending rafts of ice floating into the North Atlantic Ocean. When these icebergs melted, the resultant injection of cold freshwater was enough to drive down ocean temperatures by as much as 12°C. These so-called Heinrich events are associated with rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, but a mechanism to explain the connection convincingly has yet to arise. One proposed explanation sees the melting-iceberg-triggered North Atlantic cooling tied to increases in CO2 venting from the Southern Ocean, which surrounds Antarctica, through increased wind-driven upwelling. To test this hypothesis, which was initially proposed by researchers in 2009 based on paleoclimate evidence, Lee et al. ran ocean-atmosphere coupled climate simulations to determine the physical mechanism that could support this cross-hemisphere connection. (Paleoceanography, doi:10.1029/2010PA002004, 2011)