Climate Dynamics

, Volume 24, Issue 6, pp 545–561 | Cite as

Transient simulation of the last glacial inception. Part I: glacial inception as a bifurcation in the climate system

  • Reinhard CalovEmail author
  • Andrey Ganopolski
  • Martin Claussen
  • Vladimir Petoukhov
  • Ralf Greve


We study the mechanisms of glacial inception by using the Earth system model of intermediate complexity, CLIMBER-2, which encompasses dynamic modules of the atmosphere, ocean, biosphere and ice sheets. Ice-sheet dynamics are described by the three-dimensional polythermal ice-sheet model SICOPOLIS. We have performed transient experiments starting at the Eemiam interglacial, at 126 ky BP (126,000 years before present). The model runs for 26 kyr with time-dependent orbital and CO2 forcings. The model simulates a rapid expansion of the area covered by inland ice in the Northern Hemisphere, predominantly over Northern America, starting at about 117 kyr BP. During the next 7 kyr, the ice volume grows gradually in the model at a rate which corresponds to a change in sea level of 10 m per millennium. We have shown that the simulated glacial inception represents a bifurcation transition in the climate system from an interglacial to a glacial state caused by the strong snow-albedo feedback. This transition occurs when summer insolation at high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere drops below a threshold value, which is only slightly lower than modern summer insolation. By performing long-term equilibrium runs, we find that for the present-day orbital parameters at least two different equilibrium states of the climate system exist—the glacial and the interglacial; however, for the low summer insolation corresponding to 115 kyr BP, we find only one, glacial, equilibrium state, while for the high summer insolation corresponding to 126 kyr BP only an interglacial state exists in the model.



We wish to thank Natalie Mahowald who generously provided us with the present-day and LGM dust distributions. We thank two anonymous referees whose valuable comments improved our earlier manuscript. Alison Schlums helped in editing our manuscript. This work was supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (research grant CL 178/2-1 and CL 178/2-2).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Reinhard Calov
    • 1
    Email author
  • Andrey Ganopolski
    • 1
  • Martin Claussen
    • 1
  • Vladimir Petoukhov
    • 1
  • Ralf Greve
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact ResearchPotsdamGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Low Temperature ScienceHokkaido UniversityKita-kuJapan
  3. 3.Department of MechanicsDarmstadt University of TechnologyDarmstadtGermany

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