PerspectiveClimate Change

Dancing to the Tune of the Glacial Cycles

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Science  08 Jun 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6086, pp. 1242-1243
DOI: 10.1126/science.1223527

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Summary

Tropical convection acts as a heat engine that drives the world's atmospheric circulation. Any perturbation of this force has a global influence through interaction with other weather phenomena, such as monsoons, the El Nino/Southern Oscillation, and the genesis of tropical cyclones. How will a possibly warmer future climate affect tropical convective activity? On page 1301 of this issue, Meckler et al. (1) provide insight to this question through their analysis of an oxygen isotope record from a stalagmite in northern Borneo, reflecting tropical Pacific convective activity from 570,000 to 210,000 years ago. The record illustrates how sensitive tropical convection is to variations in global climate.