The depression of tropical snowlines at the last glacial maximum: What can we learn from climate model experiments?

Masa Kageyama*, Sandy P. Harrison, Ayako Abe-Ouchi

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    27 Citations (Scopus)


    Analyses of simulations of the last glacial maximum (LGM) made with 17 atmospheric general circulation models (AGCMs) participating in the Paleoclimate Modelling Intercomparison Project, and a high-resolution (T106) version of one of the models (CCSR1), show that changes in the elevation of tropical snowlines (as estimated by the depression of the maximum altitude of the 0 °C isotherm) are primarily controlled by changes in sea-surface temperatures (SSTs). The correlation between the two variables, averaged for the tropics as a whole, is 95%, and remains >80% even at a regional scale. The reduction of tropical SSTs at the LGM results in a drier atmosphere and hence steeper lapse rates. Changes in atmospheric circulation patterns, particularly the weakening of the Asian monsoon system and related atmospheric humidity changes, amplify the reduction in snowline elevation in the northern tropics. Colder conditions over the tropical oceans combined with a weakened Asian monsoon could produce snowline lowering of up to 1000 m in certain regions, comparable to the changes shown by observations. Nevertheless, such large changes are not typical of all regions of the tropics. Analysis of the higher resolution CCSR1 simulation shows that differences between the free atmospheric and along-slope lapse rate can be large, and may provide an additional factor to explain regional variations in observed snowline changes.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)202-219
    Number of pages18
    JournalQuaternary International
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2005


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