Physical processes of cooling and mega-drought during the 4.2 ka BP event: results from TraCE-21ka simulations

Yan, Mi; Liu, Jian

It is widely believed that multi-decadal to centennial cooling and drought occurred from 4500 to 3900 BP, known as the 4.2 ka BP event that triggered the collapse of several cultures. However, whether this event was a global event or a regional event and what caused this event remains unclear. In this study, we investigated the spatiotemporal characteristics, the possible causes and the related physical processes of the event using a set of long-term climate simulations, including one all-forcing experiment and four single-forcing experiments. The results derived from the all-forcing experiment show that this event occurs over most parts of the Northern Hemisphere (NH), indicating that this event could have been a hemispheric event. The cooler NH and warmer Southern Hemisphere (SH) illustrate that this event could be related to the slowdown of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). The comparison between the all-forcing experiment and the single-forcing experiments indicates that this event might have been caused by internal variability, while external forcings such as orbital and greenhouse gases might have modulation effects. A positive North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO)-like pattern in the atmosphere (low troposphere) triggered a negative Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation (AMO)-like pattern in the ocean, which then triggered a circum-global teleconnection (CGT)-like wave train pattern in the atmosphere (high troposphere). The positive NAO-like pattern and the CGT-like pattern are the direct physical processes that led to the NH cooling and mega-drought. The AMO-like pattern played a “bridge” role in maintaining this barotropic structure in the atmosphere at a multi-decadal–centennial timescale. Our work provides a global image and dynamic background to help better understand the 4.2 ka BP event.

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Yan, Mi / Liu, Jian: Physical processes of cooling and mega-drought during the 4.2 ka BP event: results from TraCE-21ka simulations. 2019. Copernicus Publications.

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Rechteinhaber: Mi Yan

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