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Climate of the Past An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union

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Clim. Past, 8, 37-57, 2012
© Author(s) 2012. This work is distributed
under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
04 Jan 2012
Tropical climate and vegetation changes during Heinrich Event 1: a model-data comparison
D. Handiani1,2, A. Paul1,2, and L. Dupont1 1MARUM – Center for Marine Environmental Sciences, University of Bremen, 28359 Bremen, Germany
2Department of Geosciences, University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany
Abstract. Abrupt climate changes from 18 to 15 thousand years before present (kyr BP) associated with Heinrich Event 1 (HE1) had a strong impact on vegetation patterns not only at high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, but also in the tropical regions around the Atlantic Ocean. To gain a better understanding of the linkage between high and low latitudes, we used the University of Victoria (UVic) Earth System-Climate Model (ESCM) with dynamical vegetation and land surface components to simulate four scenarios of climate-vegetation interaction: the pre-industrial era, the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), and a Heinrich-like event with two different climate backgrounds (interglacial and glacial). We calculated mega-biomes from the plant-functional types (PFTs) generated by the model to allow for a direct comparison between model results and palynological vegetation reconstructions.

Our calculated mega-biomes for the pre-industrial period and the LGM corresponded well with biome reconstructions of the modern and LGM time slices, respectively, except that our pre-industrial simulation predicted the dominance of grassland in southern Europe and our LGM simulation resulted in more forest cover in tropical and sub-tropical South America.

The HE1-like simulation with a glacial climate background produced sea-surface temperature patterns and enhanced inter-hemispheric thermal gradients in accordance with the "bipolar seesaw" hypothesis. We found that the cooling of the Northern Hemisphere caused a southward shift of those PFTs that are indicative of an increased desertification and a retreat of broadleaf forests in West Africa and northern South America. The mega-biomes from our HE1 simulation agreed well with paleovegetation data from tropical Africa and northern South America. Thus, according to our model-data comparison, the reconstructed vegetation changes for the tropical regions around the Atlantic Ocean were physically consistent with the remote effects of a Heinrich event under a glacial climate background.

Citation: Handiani, D., Paul, A., and Dupont, L.: Tropical climate and vegetation changes during Heinrich Event 1: a model-data comparison, Clim. Past, 8, 37-57, doi:10.5194/cp-8-37-2012, 2012.
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