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Large-Scale Temperature Changes across the Southern Andes: 20th-Century Variations in the Context of the Past 400 Years



Long-term trends of temperature variations across the southern Andes (37–55° S) are examined using a combination of instrumental and tree-ring records. A critical appraisal of surface air temperature from station records is presented for southern South America during the 20th century. For the interval 1930–1990, three major patterns in temperature trends are identified. Stations along the Pacific coast between 37 and 43° S are characterized by negative trends in mean annual temperature with a marked cooling period from 1950 to the mid-1970s. A clear warming trend is observed in the southern stations (south of 46°S), which intensifies at higher latitudes. No temperature trends are detected for the stations on the Atlantic coast north of 45° S. In contrast to higher latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere where annual changes in temperature are dominated by winter trends, both positive and negative trends in southern South America are due to mostly changes in summer (December to February) temperatures. Changes in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) around 1976 are felt in summer temperatures at most stations in the Pacific domain, starting a period with increased temperature across the southern Andes and at higher latitudes.Tree-ring records from upper-treeline were used to reconstruct past temperature fluctuations for the two dominant patterns over the southern Andes. These reconstructions extend back to 1640 and are based on composite tree-ring chronologies that were processed to retain as much low-frequency variance as possible. The resulting reconstructions for the northern and southern sectors of the southern Andes explain 55% and 45% ofthe temperature variance over the interval 1930–1989, respectively. Cross-spectral analysis of actual and reconstructed temperatures over the common interval 1930–1989, indicates that most of the explained varianceis at periods >10 years in length. At periods >15 years, the squaredcoherency between actual and reconstructed temperatures ranges between 0.6 and 0.95 for both reconstructions. Consequently, these reconstructions are especially useful for studying multi-decennial temperature variations in the South American sector of the Southern Hemisphere over the past 360 years. As a result, it is possible to show that the temperatures during the 20thcentury have been anomalously warm across the southern Andes. The mean annual temperatures for the northern and southern sectors during the interval 1900–1990 are 0.53 °C and 0.86 °C above the1640–1899 means, respectively. These findings placed the current warming in a longer historical perspective, and add new support for the existence of unprecedented 20th century warming over much of the globe. The rate of temperature increase from 1850 to 1920 was the highest over the past 360 years, a common feature observed in several proxy records from higher latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere.Local temperature regimes are affected by changes in planetary circulation, with in turn are linked to global sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies. Therefore, we explored how temperature variations in the southern Andes since 1856 are related to large-scale SSTs on the South Pacific and South Atlantic Oceans. Spatial correlation patterns between the reconstructions and SSTs show that temperature variations in the northern sector of the southern Andes are strongly connected with SST anomalies in the tropical and subtropical Pacific. This spatial correlation pattern resembles the spatial signature of the PDO mode of SST variability over the South Pacific and is connected with the Pacific-South American (PSA) atmospheric pattern in the Southern Hemisphere. In contrast, temperature variations in the southern sector of the southern Andes are significantly correlated with SST anomalies over most of the South Atlantic, and in less degree, over the subtropical Pacific. This spatial correlation field regressed against SST resembles the `Global Warming' mode of SST variability, which in turn, is linked to the leading mode of circulation in the Southern Hemisphere. Certainly, part of the temperature signal present in the reconstructions can be expressed as a linear combination of four orthogonal modes of SST variability. Rotated empirical orthogonal function analysis, performed on SST across the South Pacific and South Atlantic Oceans, indicate that four discrete modes of SST variability explain a third, approximately, of total variance in temperature fluctuations across the southern Andes.



Climatic ChangeSpringer Journals

Published: Jul 1, 2003

DOI: 10.1023/A:1024452701153

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