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EARTH SCIENCE | CLIMATE INDICATORS | PALEOCLIMATE INDICATORS | PALEOCLIMATE RECONSTRUCTIONS

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    A 2038-year South West Western Australia rainfall reconstruction. The prolonged rainfall reduction in South West Western Australia (SWWA) in recent decades has previously been reported to be unprecedented in the past 750 years. This rainfall reduction has reduced the water supply for both residents and agriculture in SWWA. However, the cause of this rainfall reduction is unclear. The relatively short length of the SWWA instrumental rainfall record limits longterm studies of SWWA rainfall. In this study, SWWA rainfall is reconstructed based on a statistically significant negative correlation between SWWA rainfall and snowfall at Dome Summit South (DSS), East Antarctica. The 2000-year DSS snow accumulation record is used to reconstruct SWWA rainfall from 22 BCE to 2015 CE. With Cumulative Summation (CUSUM) analysis applied to the rainfall reconstruction, it is found that SWWA rainfall started to reduce around 1971 CE. This prolonged rainfall reduction is unprecedented during the past 750 years, but there have been two prior droughts of similar duration and intensity during the past 2000 years. Applying statistical techniques to compare the rainfall reconstruction with climate model simulations, it is found that greenhouse gases are likely to be the dominant driver of the SWWA rainfall drying trend after 1971 CE.

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    Declining atmospheric CO2 concentrations are considered the primary driver for the Cenozoic Greenhouse-Icehouse transition, ~34 million years ago. A role for tectonically opening Southern Ocean gateways, initiating the onset of a thermally isolating Antarctic Circumpolar Current, has been disputed as ocean models have not reproduced expected heat transport to the Antarctic coast. Here we use high-resolution ocean simulations with detailed paleobathymetry to demonstrate that tectonics did play a fundamental role in reorganising Southern Ocean circulation patterns and heat transport, consistent with available proxy data. When at least one gateway (Tasmanian or Drake) is shallow (300 m), gyres transport warm waters towards Antarctica. When the second gateway subsides below 300 m, these gyres weaken and cause a dramatic cooling (average of 2–4°C, up to 5°C) of Antarctic surface waters whilst the ACC remains weak. Our results demonstrate that tectonic changes are crucial for Southern Ocean climate change and should be carefully considered in constraining long-term climate sensitivity to CO2.

  • The prolonged rainfall reduction in South West Western Australia (SWWA) in recent decades has previously been reported to be unprecedented in the past 750 years. This rainfall reduction has reduced the water supply for both residents and agriculture in SWWA. However, the cause of this rainfall reduction is unclear. The relatively short length of the SWWA instrumental rainfall record limits long term studies of SWWA rainfall. In this study, SWWA rainfall is reconstructed based on a statistically significant negative correlation between SWWA rainfall and snowfall at Dome Summit South (DSS), East Antarctica. The 2000-year DSS snow accumulation record is used to reconstruct SWWA rainfall from 22 BCE to 2015 CE. With Cumulative Summation (CUSUM) analysis applied to the rainfall reconstruction, it is found that SWWA rainfall started to reduce around 1971 CE. This prolonged rainfall reduction is unprecedented during the past 750 years, but there have been two prior droughts of similar duration and intensity during the past 2000 years. Applying statistical techniques to compare the rainfall reconstruction with climate model simulations, it is found that greenhouse gases are likely to be the dominant driver of the SWWA rainfall drying trend after 1971 CE. This record describes the Honours Thesis [available for download in 'Online Resources' section of thsi record]. For the data generated by this project, see https://metadata.imas.utas.edu.au/geonetwork/srv/eng/catalog.search#/metadata/d7d5ea56-f972-435d-b44b-44fea598150c