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Climate of the Past An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 14, issue 11 | Copyright
Clim. Past, 14, 1583-1606, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 01 Nov 2018

Research article | 01 Nov 2018

Influence of radiative forcing factors on ground–air temperature coupling during the last millennium: implications for borehole climatology

Camilo Melo-Aguilar1,2, J. Fidel González-Rouco1,2, Elena García-Bustamante3, Jorge Navarro-Montesinos3, and Norman Steinert1,2 Camilo Melo-Aguilar et al.
  • 1Universidad Complutense de Madrid, 28040 Madrid, Spain
  • 2Instituto de Geociencias, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas-Universidad Complutense de Madrid, 28040 Madrid, Spain
  • 3Centro de Investigaciones Energéticas, Medioambientales y Tecnológicas (CIEMAT), 28040 Madrid, Spain

Abstract. Past climate variations may be uncovered via reconstruction methods that use proxy data as predictors. Among them, borehole reconstruction is a well-established technique to recover the long-term past surface air temperature (SAT) evolution. It is based on the assumption that SAT changes are strongly coupled to ground surface temperature (GST) changes and transferred to the subsurface by thermal conduction. We evaluate the SAT–GST coupling during the last millennium (LM) using simulations from the Community Earth System Model LM Ensemble (CESM-LME). The validity of such a premise is explored by analyzing the structure of the SAT–GST covariance during the LM and also by investigating the evolution of the long-term SAT–GST relationship. The multiple and single-forcing simulations in the CESM-LME are used to analyze the SAT–GST relationship within different regions and spatial scales and to derive the influence of the different forcing factors on producing feedback mechanisms that alter the energy balance at the surface. The results indicate that SAT–GST coupling is strong at global and above multi-decadal timescales in CESM-LME, although a relatively small variation in the long-term SAT–GST relationship is also represented. However, at a global scale such variation does not significantly impact the SAT–GST coupling, at local to regional scales this relationship experiences considerable long-term changes mostly after the end of the 19th century. Land use land cover changes are the main driver for locally and regionally decoupling SAT and GST, as they modify the land surface properties such as albedo, surface roughness and hydrology, which in turn modifies the energy fluxes at the surface. Snow cover feedbacks due to the influence of other external forcing are also important for corrupting the long-term SAT–GST coupling. Our findings suggest that such local and regional SAT–GST decoupling processes may represent a source of bias for SAT reconstructions from borehole measurement, since the thermal signature imprinted in the subsurface over the affected regions is not fully representative of the long-term SAT variations.

Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Air–ground temperature coupling is the central assumption of borehole temperature reconstructions. Here, this premise is assessed from a pseudo-reality perspective by considering last millennium ensembles of simulations from the Community Earth System Model. The results show that long-term variations in the energy fluxes at the surface during industrial times, due to the influence of external forcings, impact the long-term air–ground temperature coupling.
Air–ground temperature coupling is the central assumption of borehole temperature...