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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 2 | Copyright
Clim. Past, 8, 483-507, 2012
© Author(s) 2012. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 14 Mar 2012

Research article | 14 Mar 2012

Persistent influence of ice sheet melting on high northern latitude climate during the early Last Interglacial

A. Govin1,*, P. Braconnot1, E. Capron1,**, E. Cortijo1, J.-C. Duplessy1, E. Jansen2, L. Labeyrie1, A. Landais1, O. Marti1, E. Michel1, E. Mosquet1, B. Risebrobakken2, D. Swingedouw1, and C. Waelbroeck1 A. Govin et al.
  • 1LSCE/IPSL Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement, CEA-CNRS-UVSQ – UMR8212, Gif sur Yvette, France
  • 2Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway
  • *now at: MARUM/Center for Marine Environmental Sciences, University of Bremen, Leobener Strasse, Bremen, Germany
  • **now at: British Antarctic Survey, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge, CB3 0ET, UK

Abstract. Although the Last Interglacial (LIG) is often considered as a possible analogue for future climate in high latitudes, its precise climate evolution and associated causes remain uncertain. Here we compile high-resolution marine sediment records from the North Atlantic, Labrador Sea, Norwegian Sea and the Southern Ocean. We document a delay in the establishment of peak interglacial conditions in the North Atlantic, Labrador and Norwegian Seas as compared to the Southern Ocean. In particular, we observe a persistent iceberg melting at high northern latitudes at the beginning of the LIG. It is associated with (1) colder and fresher surface-water conditions in the North Atlantic, Labrador and Norwegian Seas, and (2) a weaker ventilation of North Atlantic deep waters during the early LIG (129–125 ka) compared to the late LIG. Results from an ocean-atmosphere coupled model with insolation as a sole forcing for three key periods of the LIG show warmer North Atlantic surface waters and stronger Atlantic overturning during the early LIG (126 ka) than the late LIG (122 ka). Hence, insolation variations alone do not explain the delay in peak interglacial conditions observed at high northern latitudes. Additionally, we consider an idealized meltwater scenario at 126 ka where the freshwater input is interactively computed in response to the high boreal summer insolation. The model simulates colder, fresher North Atlantic surface waters and weaker Atlantic overturning during the early LIG (126 ka) compared to the late LIG (122 ka). This result suggests that both insolation and ice sheet melting have to be considered to reproduce the climatic pattern that we identify during the early LIG. Our model-data comparison also reveals a number of limitations and reinforces the need for further detailed investigations using coupled climate-ice sheet models and transient simulations.

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