Modeling the Ice-Age Climate

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Science  19 Mar 1976:
Vol. 191, Issue 4232, pp. 1138-1144
DOI: 10.1126/science.191.4232.1138


Using the boundary conditions of seasurface temperature, ice sheet topography, and surface albedo assembled by CLIMAP for 18,000 B.P., the global ice-age July climate has been simulated with a two-level dynamical atmospheric model. Compared with the simulation for present July climate, the ice age is substantially cooler and drier over the unglaciated continental areas, with the maximum zonal westerlies in the Northern Hemisphere displaced southward in the vicinity of the ice sheets. The simulated changes of surface air temperature agree reasonably well with the estimates available from the analysis of fossil pollen and periglacial data, and are consistent with the simulated changes of other climatic variables. These results are generally supported by independent investigations with simpler models.

In spite of this qualified success, further analysis of both simulated and verification data is needed to establish the details of ice-age climate, especially the precipitation regimes, and to document the role of eddy fluxes in maintaining the heat, momentum, and moisture balances of the ice-age general circulation. New paleoclimatic data bases for both July and January of 18,000 B.P. are being assembled by CLIMAP and will be used in new simulations of the seasonal ice-age climate.