Paper No. 7
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM
TROPICAL WESTERLIES OVER PANGEAN SAND SEAS
Cross-equatorial, westerly winds are key features of tropical circulation in monsoonal regions. Although prominent in numerical climate models of Pangaea (the supercontinent straddling Earths equator, late Paleozoic through early Mesozoic), such flow has not been confirmed previously by migration directions of ancient dunes. Wind-blown sandstones that span 100 million years of Earth history are widely exposed in southwestern USA. If up-to-date paleomagnetic data are used to correct errors in Mesozoic paleogeographic maps, the Colorado Plateau is placed 10-15° further south than previously assumed, and the prevailing northwesterly surface winds recorded by dune-deposited sandstones are explicable as cross-equatorial westerliesthe hallmark of modern monsoon circulation. Permian through Early Jurassic dunes were driven by northwesterlies produced by a steep pressure gradient spanning the supercontinent during December-January-February.
Although winds are light in most modern, near-equatorial settings, the East African Jet accounts for more than half of the cross-equatorial flow in June-July-August. The thickness of annual depositional cycles within the Navajo Sandstone indicates that the near-equatorial, northwesterly winds that drove these dunes were stronger than the East African Jet. The Early Jurassic dunes that deposited the thick cycles were positioned west of the dominant (southern hemisphere) thermal low, and against highlands to the west-- a setting very similar to the East African Jet. The mountains along the western coast of Pangaea not only enhanced wind strength, but also cast a rain shadow that allowed active dunes to extend very close to the paleoequator.