Researchers studied the dust deposited in ancient ocean sediments to understand how winds have changed throughout the planet’s history.
Westerly winds play an important role in weather and climate change both locally and globally. They change rainfall patterns, ocean circulation, and control tropical cyclones. Therefore, it is very important to find a way to estimate changes in winds in the future, as the climate warms.
Usually, westerly winds blow from west to east across the middle latitudes of the Earth. But scientists have noticed that these winds have been changing over the past few decades, migrating towards the poles. Research shows this is linked to climate change.
Scientists are debating whether westerly winds will continue to move towards the pole as temperatures and carbon dioxide (CO2) rise further in future warming scenarios.
A new method of tracking the ancient history of westerly winds is a proxy for what awaits us as a result of rising global temperatures. Lead author, Lamont’s graduate student Jordan Abell and his advisor, Gisela Winkler, developed a way to apply paleoclimatology – studying the climate of the past – and found evidence that atmospheric circulation patterns will change with climate warming.
Dust deposits in the world’s oceans contain records of past climatic conditions in their layers. On its basis, the researchers were able to reconstruct the nature of the winds that blew on Earth about three or five million years ago.
The movement of these winds is of great importance for storm systems and rainfall patterns. Although this study does not indicate exactly where it will rain, it does confirm that the pattern of wind and precipitation will change as the climate warms.