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Climate of the Past An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 8, issue 1
Clim. Past, 8, 37–57, 2012
https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-8-37-2012
© Author(s) 2012. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Clim. Past, 8, 37–57, 2012
https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-8-37-2012
© Author(s) 2012. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 04 Jan 2012

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 D. Handiani et al.
  • 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.

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