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The relationship of sea level changes to climatic change in northeast Asia and northern North America during the last 75 ka B.P.

Department of Geography, University of Calgary, Alberta, T2A 1E4, Canada

The Arctic air mass is the cold, dry body of air slowly moving eastwards around the North Pole in the northern hemisphere. Its southern boundary consists of four planetary waves known as the Rossby waves that mark the interface with subtropical air bringing heat polewards. The Arctic air mass is constantly being modified by the addition of heat and moisture over the oceans, as well as by winter cooling over the land masses due to limited incoming solar radiation and constant reradiation of heat into the atmosphere. The coldest air in winter is located over northeastern Siberia and moves east, cooling Canada. Warm ocean currents add large quantities of heat to the air mass moving over them, but without this addition of heat, the Arctic air mass becomes significantly colder. Research in Tibet and Northeast Asia on depression of sea level shows that during the Late Wisconsin cold event (65–10 ka B.P.), vast quantities of sea water were sequestered on land primarily as ice sheets, exposing the sea bed in the Bering Strait from 50–10 ka B.P. together with the bottom of the South China Sea between 30–20 ka B.P.. The East China Monsoon failed to reach Tibet and much of Northeast China, resulting in severe cooling of northeast Siberia and northern Tibet. This, in turn, caused severe cooling in eastern Canada together with the development of a vast, predominantly cold-based ice sheet. As the sea levels started to rise (about 19 ka B.P.), the East China Monsoon slowly redeveloped and a gradual warming took place on both continents. However, along the west side of the North American Cordillera, the Late Wisconsin glaciation only began in 29 ka B.P. but continued along the west coast until about 10 ka B.P. This paper explores the relationship of the Late Wisconsin history on the two continents, together with the mechanisms causing the landforms and climatic differences. Finally, the probable effects of these climatic changes on the early peopling of North America are discussed.
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