Climate Dynamics

, Volume 24, Issue 6, pp 563-576

First online:

Transient simulation of the last glacial inception. Part II: sensitivity and feedback analysis

  • Reinhard CalovAffiliated withPotsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research Email author 
  • , Andrey GanopolskiAffiliated withPotsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
  • , Vladimir PetoukhovAffiliated withPotsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
  • , Martin ClaussenAffiliated withPotsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
  • , Victor BrovkinAffiliated withPotsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
  • , Claudia KubatzkiAffiliated withPotsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research

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The sensitivity of the last glacial-inception (around 115 kyr BP, 115,000 years before present) to different feedback mechanisms has been analysed by using the Earth system model of intermediate complexity CLIMBER-2. CLIMBER-2 includes dynamic modules of the atmosphere, ocean, terrestrial biosphere and inland ice, the last of which was added recently by utilising the three-dimensonal polythermal ice-sheet model SICOPOLIS. We performed a set of transient experiments starting at the middle of the Eemiam interglacial and ran the model for 26,000 years with time-dependent orbital forcing and observed changes in atmospheric CO2 concentration (CO2 forcing). The role of vegetation and ocean feedback, CO2 forcing, mineral dust, thermohaline circulation and orbital insolation were closely investigated. In our model, glacial inception, as a bifurcation in the climate system, appears in nearly all sensitivity runs including a run with constant atmospheric CO2 concentration of 280 ppmv, a typical interglacial value, and simulations with prescribed present-day sea-surface temperatures or vegetation cover—although the rate of the growth of ice-sheets growth is smaller than in the case of the fully interactive model. Only if we run the fully interactive model with constant present-day insolation and apply present-day CO2 forcing does no glacial inception appear at all. This implies that, within our model, the orbital forcing alone is sufficient to trigger the interglacial–glacial transition, while vegetation, ocean and atmospheric CO2 concentration only provide additional, although important, positive feedbacks. In addition, we found that possible reorganisations of the thermohaline circulation influence the distribution of inland ice.