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Title: Global and Zonal‐Mean Hydrological Response to Early Eocene Warmth

Earth's hydrological cycle is expected to intensify in response to global warming, with a “wet‐gets‐wetter, dry‐gets‐drier” response anticipated over the ocean. Subtropical regions (∼15°–30°N/S) are predicted to become drier, yet proxy evidence from past warm climates suggests these regions may be characterized by wetter conditions. Here we use an integrated data‐modeling approach to reconstruct global and zonal‐mean rainfall patterns during the early Eocene (∼56–48 million years ago). The Deep‐Time Model Intercomparison Project (DeepMIP) model ensemble indicates that the mid‐ (30°–60°N/S) and high‐latitudes (>60°N/S) are characterized by a thermodynamically dominated hydrological response to warming and overall wetter conditions. The tropical band (0°–15°N/S) is also characterized by wetter conditions, with several DeepMIP models simulating narrowing of the Inter‐Tropical Convergence Zone. However, the latter is not evident from the proxy data. The subtropics are characterized by negative precipitation‐evaporation anomalies (i.e., drier conditions) in the DeepMIP models, but there is surprisingly large inter‐model variability in mean annual precipitation (MAP). Intriguingly, we find that models with weaker meridional temperature gradients (e.g., CESM, GFDL) are characterized by a reduction in subtropical moisture divergence, leading to an increase in MAP. These model simulations agree more closely with our new proxy‐derived precipitation reconstructions and other key climate metrics and imply that the early Eocene was characterized by reduced subtropical moisture divergence. If the meridional temperature gradient was even weaker than suggested by those DeepMIP models, circulation‐induced changes may have outcompeted thermodynamic changes, leading to wetter subtropics. This highlights the importance of accurately reconstructing zonal temperature gradients when reconstructing past rainfall patterns.

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Award ID(s):
2114204 1844380
Author(s) / Creator(s):
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Publisher / Repository:
DOI PREFIX: 10.1029
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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