During the last ice age, the western United States was covered by large
lakes, sustained partly by higher levels of precipitation. Increased
rainfall was driven by the atmospheric circulation associated with the
presence of large North American ice sheets, yet Pleistocene lakes
generally reached their highstands not at glacial maximum but during
deglaciation. Prior modeling studies, however, showed nearly monotonic
drying since the last glacial maximum. Here I show that iTraCE, a new transient climate simulation of the last deglaciation, reproduces a robust
peak in winter rainfall over the Great Basin near 16 ka. The simulated peak is driven by a transient strengthening and southward shift of the midlatitude jet. While meltwater forcing is an important driver of changes to the North Pacific Jet, changing orbital conditions and rising atmospheric CO2 also shift the jet south and contribute to wetter conditions over the western US during deglaciation.