The North American monsoon (NAM) is an important source of rainfall to much of Mexico and southwestern United States. Westerly winds (westerlies) can suppress monsoon circulation and impact monsoon timing, intensity, and extent. Recent Arctic warming is reducing the temperature gradient between the equator and the pole, which could weaken the westerlies; however, the implications of these changes on the NAM are uncertain. Here we present a new composite index of the Holocene NAM. We find monsoon strength reached a maximum circa 7,000 years ago and has weakened since then. Proxy observations of temperature, hydroclimate and upwelling, along with model simulations, show that the NAM was modulated by the westerlies over the Holocene. If the observed Holocene pattern holds for current warming, a weaker meridional temperature gradient and weaker westerlies could lead to a stronger future NAM.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- General Earth and Planetary Sciences