The Southern Ocean plays a significant role in driving global climate–ocean–carbon dynamics. Unfortunately, a relative dearth of datasets across the region limits our ability to understand past and future mechanisms of change. Here we report a new dataset from the south‐west Pacific: radiocarbon‐dated subfossil tree stumps (Dracophyllum) eroding out from peat exposures on Campbell and Auckland Islands (52–50°S). Dracophyllum are the southernmost growing trees in the south‐west Pacific and their growth on exposed sites and at altitude is strongly controlled by the prevailing westerly airflow, providing a unique measure of past changes in zonal wind strength. Here we demonstrate a significant collapse in the altitudinal limit of growth between approximately 2000 and 1000 years ago (hereafter 2–1 ka), consistent with other records across the Southern Hemisphere that indicate westerly airflow was significantly enhanced. Importantly, this period in the late Holocene was one of marked change across the broader region, suggesting westerly airflow played a key role in driving Southern Ocean variability at this time.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.