Recent paleoproxy records suggest that the mean latitude of the Atlantic Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) varied synchronously with North Atlantic climate over a range of timescales throughout the Holocene and Last Glacial Maximum. We show that the present-day “meridional mode” of atmosphere-ocean variability in the tropical Atlantic is a potentially useful model for understanding these paleoclimate changes. The tropical Atlantic in a coupled atmospheric general circulation and slab ocean model responds to Last Glacial Maximum conditions with a southward displacement of the ITCZ. This response arises primarily through the land ice sheet that forces increased North Atlantic trades analogous to the forcing on the present-day meridional mode. Changes to sea ice coverage and to ocean heat transport associated with a weakened Atlantic thermohaline circulation also cause a meridional mode response, though through different mechanisms. Our results highlight the potential for tropical Atlantic paleoclimate to be driven from the high latitude influences, in particular, land ice on glacial-interglacial timescales.
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