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Metric-Dependent Tendency of Tropical Belt Width Changes during the Last Glacial Maximum Print

Motivated by studies of tropical expansion under modern global warming, the behavior of the tropical belt during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) relative to the preindustrial period has been investigated in this study, using simulations from phase 3 of the Paleoclimate Modelling Intercomparison Project (PMIP3) under the framework of phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5). The tropical belt width changes determined by multiple metrics present two opposite tendencies. One refers to the poleward migration of the tropical edge as measured by the steep tropopause gradient and the subtropical jet, and the other suggests that the LGM tropics become narrower as measured by the Hadley cell extent, the eddy-driven jet, and the latitude where precipitation minus evaporation equals zero. The magnitude of such changes widely differs across models and metrics. In absolute terms, the multimodel mean total width changes range from 0.6° to 1.7° among metrics, with contributions predominantly from the Northern Hemisphere. Furthermore, the two metrics that indicate tropical widening are located in the upper troposphere. Such widening is closely related to the vertical and meridional temperature gradient changes in the subtropical regions. The other metrics are located in the middle and lower troposphere, and their variations are directly or indirectly related to changes in the low-level baroclinicity. The diverse responses of metrics to the LGM boundary conditions suggest that the tropical belt width changes and their climatic impacts are distinguished by the different measurements. The selection of metrics should correspond to the specific tropical properties of concern.


Wang, N., D. Jiang*, and X. Lang, 2018: Metric-Dependent tendency of tropical belt width changes during the Last Glacial Maximum. Journal of Climate, 31(20), 8527–8540.


【Key figure】



Poleward shifts of the LGM (a) NH and (b) SH tropical edges, and (c) changes in the total tropical belt width compared to the preindustrial period, as indicated by each metric. For individual models, gray indicates that the model failed to pass the statistical significance test at the 95% confidence level.