High-resolution glacial ocean circulation modelling

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Alan Condron has been using MITgcm to develop one of the first high-resolution models to study the circulation of the ocean during the Last Glacial Maximum - a period in the Earth's climate ~21,000 years before present when ice sheets were at their maximum amd sea level was ~120 meters lower than today.

This new model is global in extent and has a spatial resolution of 1/6 degree. It is ~5-10 times higher resolution than most existing numerical models studying past climate and offers an unprecedented look at how the world's ocean circulated during glacial periods. We have found that during the last deglaciation, massive (up to 300m thick) icebergs and large volumes of meltwater were periodically transported along the east coast of North America to southern Florida.


The above image shows the temperatures of the oceans surface 21,000 years ago during winter, as simulated by MITgcm. Compared to modern-day the Gulf Stream is more zonal (i.e warm water flows in an easterly direction rather northeasterly) and transports less heat to northwest Europe and the Arctic.