Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

Southern Ocean - Shifting Westerlies

The westerlies, the prevailing winds in middle latitudes, blow to the east from the west between the high-pressure areas of the subtropics and the low-pressure areas that are occur the poles. It has been found that over the past 50 years they have strengthened and shifted closer to the poles, which the author1 is suggesting is possibly a response to warming that has resulted from the rising concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide. A similar phenomenon appears to have happened at the end of the last ice age about 17,000 years ago: a time when it is believed the Earth warmed, the levels of atmospheric CO2 rose and  in the Southern Hemisphere, the westerlies appear to have moved closer to Antarctica. It has been reported that the shift at 17,000 years ago occurred prior to the warming, and it was responsible for the increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations (Anderson, et al., 2009).

Sources & Further reading

Toggweiler, J. R. "Shifting Westerlies." Science 323, no. 5920 (March 13, 2009 2009): 1434-35.

Author: M. H. Monroe
Last updated 10/09/2013
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