Abstract

The strength of mid-southern latitude westerly atmospheric circulation plays an important role in global climate. Due to a lack of long, continuous, high-resolution paleoclimate archives from mid-southern latitudes, it remains unclear what factors control changes in its intensity and how past changes affected the climates of landmasses in their path. Here we show growth rate and stable isotope (δ18O, δ13C) profiles from a South Island, New Zealand, stalagmite (HW3) that permit centennial-scale investigation of Southern Hemisphere westerly paleointensity between 73 and 11 ka. Correlation between HW3 growth rate and isotope profiles suggests sensitivity to changes in annual precipitation, a factor controlled by westerly intensity. Low growth rates and relatively enriched isotope ratios define long-term trends in HW3, supporting existing evidence that weaker westerlies predominated during the last glacial period. Abrupt millennial-scale events occur frequently, such that the HW3 record resembles Greenland ice core stable isotope profiles. Furthermore, nearly synchronous timing of nine prominent wet and cool intervals with Heinrich events supports studies showing that increased westerly intensity is closely linked to North Atlantic cooling. As well as Heinrich events, the HW3 profiles also show an Antarctic Cold Reversal–like event during deglaciation, advocating for a bipolar seesaw of global climate at that time.

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