Wind-driven evolution of the North Pacific subpolar gyre over the last deglaciation

William Robert Gray, Robert CJ Wills, James William Buchanan Rae, Andrea Burke, Ruza F Ivanovic, William HG Roberts, David Ferreira, Paul J Valdes

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North Pacific atmospheric and oceanic circulations are key missing pieces in our understanding of the reorganisation of the global climate system since the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). Here, using a basin‐wide compilation of planktic foraminiferal δ18O, we show that the North Pacific subpolar gyre extended ~3° further south during the LGM, consistent with sea surface temperature and productivity proxy data. Climate models indicate that the expansion of the subpolar gyre was associated with a substantial gyre strengthening, and that these gyre circulation changes were driven by a southward shift of the mid‐latitude westerlies and increased wind‐stress from the polar easterlies. Using single‐forcing model runs, we show that these atmospheric circulation changes are a non‐linear response to ice‐sheet topography/albedo, and CO2. Our reconstruction indicates that the gyre boundary (and thus westerly winds) began to migrate northward at ~16.5 ka, driving changes in ocean heat transport, biogeochemistry, and North American hydroclimate.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2019GL086328
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 17 Mar 2020


  • North Pacific
  • Deglaciation
  • Gyre circulation
  • Westerlies
  • Oxygen isotopes
  • Climate models


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