Last glacial maximum hydro-climate and cyclone characteristics in the Levant: A regional modelling perspective

Patrick Ludwig, Assaf Hochman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations

Abstract

Proxy-based hydro-climate reconstructions in the Levant suggest enhanced water availability during the last glacial maximum (LGM) compared to present-day conditions. To date, the governing hypothesis is that additional water availability may be directly linked to increased Cyprus Low frequency and intensity in the region. However, this paradigm has not been tested in a modelling framework. With this aim, we analysed results from a weather type classification algorithm and regional climate simulations. The weather type classification is applied to ERA5 reanalysis data for present-day (1979-2018) and two Paleoclimate Modelling Inter-comparison Project PMIP3/PMIP4 pre-industrial and LGM model runs. Dynamical downscaling of the two models with the regional Weather Research and Forecast model shows that the present hydro-climate can largely be reproduced. Our simulations suggest that both evaporation and precipitation were lower in the LGM compared to pre-industrial conditions, and that their relative changes can thus most likely explain the additional water availability during that time. Indeed, evaporation in the eastern Mediterranean is reduced to a higher degree (∼-33%) as compared to precipitation (∼-20%) during the LGM. Particularly, lower evaporation during LGM summer may have sustained the year-round wetter conditions in the Levant. In addition, we find significant changes in Cyprus Low characteristics for the LGM. The simulated daily precipitation associated with Cyprus Lows is significantly lower than pre-industrial values (reduction of 26%-29%), whereas the wind intensity is stronger (increase of 7%-8%). Finally, a significant increase in Cyprus Low frequency during LGM winter is likely (+22%). Indeed, our findings are in line with a plethora of proxy-based reconstructions, and provide a reinterpretation of the driving mechanism of water availability, i.e. strong changes in evaporation rather than precipitation. This study places projected hydro-climatic drying of the Levant in a long timescale perspective. As such, it improves our understanding of the physical processes influencing the hydrological cycle in this vulnerable region, situated on the border between sub-tropical and mid-latitude climate zones.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number014053
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Volume17
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s). Published by IOP Publishing Ltd.

Keywords

  • Cyprus Lows
  • Middle-East
  • eastern Mediterranean
  • hydrological cycle
  • last glacial maximum
  • regional climate modelling
  • synoptic systems

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