Climate Dynamics

, Volume 22, Issue 2–3, pp 223–238 | Cite as

Synergistic feedbacks between ocean and vegetation on mid- and high-latitude climates during the mid-Holocene



Simulations with the IPSL atmosphere–ocean model asynchronously coupled with the BIOME1 vegetation model show the impact of ocean and vegetation feedbacks, and their synergy, on mid- and high-latitude (>40°N) climate in response to orbitally-induced changes in mid-Holocene insolation. The atmospheric response to orbital forcing produces a +1.2 °C warming over the continents in summer and a cooling during the rest of the year. Ocean feedback reinforces the cooling in spring but counteracts the autumn and winter cooling. Vegetation feedback produces warming in all seasons, with largest changes (+1 °C) in spring. Synergy between ocean and vegetation feedbacks leads to further warming, which can be as large as the independent impact of these feedbacks. The combination of these effects causes the high northern latitudes to be warmer throughout the year in the ocean–atmosphere-vegetation simulation. Simulated vegetation changes resulting from this year-round warming are consistent with observed mid-Holocene vegetation patterns. Feedbacks also impact on precipitation. The atmospheric response to orbital-forcing reduces precipitation throughout the year; the most marked changes occur in the mid-latitudes in summer. Ocean feedback reduces aridity during autumn, winter and spring, but does not affect summer precipitation. Vegetation feedback increases spring precipitation but amplifies summer drying. Synergy between the feedbacks increases precipitation in autumn, winter and spring, and reduces precipitation in summer. The combined changes amplify the seasonal contrast in precipitation in the ocean–atmosphere-vegetation simulation. Enhanced summer drought produces an unrealistically large expansion of temperate grasslands, particularly in mid-latitude Eurasia.



We would like to thank Martin Claussen and Viktor Brovkin for stimulating our interest in examining the role of feedbacks on Arctic climates. We thank Kerstin Sickel for assistance in running the diagnostic simulations with BIOME4, Gerhard Bönisch for his help with accessing data from the PAIN and BIOME 6000 databases, Silvana Schott for the final figure layout and Claudia Kubatzki for providing us with data from the CLIMBER model. We thank Colin Prentice and Claudia Kubatzki for reviews of an earlier version of the manuscript. This is a contribution to the Palaeoclimate Modelling Intercomparison Project (PMIP), to the TEMPO (Testing Earth-system Models with Palaeoenvironmental Observations) project, and to the BMBF-sponsored project “Past Climate Sensitivity and Variability”.


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© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, PO Box 100164, 07701 Jena, Germany
  2. 2.IPSL/LSCE – Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement, Unité mixte CNRS-CEA, D.S.M./Orme des Merisiers/Bat. 709, CEA/Saclay, Gif-sur-Yvette, 91191, France

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