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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 3 | Copyright
Clim. Past, 8, 935-949, 2012
https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-8-935-2012
© Author(s) 2012. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 24 May 2012

Research article | 24 May 2012

The impact of different glacial boundary conditions on atmospheric dynamics and precipitation in the North Atlantic region

D. Hofer1,2, C. C. Raible1,2, A. Dehnert3, and J. Kuhlemann3 D. Hofer et al.
  • 1Climate and Environmental Physics, Physics Institute, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
  • 2Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
  • 3Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate, Brugg, Switzerland

Abstract. Using a highly resolved atmospheric general circulation model, the impact of different glacial boundary conditions on precipitation and atmospheric dynamics in the North Atlantic region is investigated. Six 30-yr time slice experiments of the Last Glacial Maximum at 21 thousand years before the present (ka BP) and of a less pronounced glacial state – the Middle Weichselian (65 ka BP) – are compared to analyse the sensitivity to changes in the ice sheet distribution, in the radiative forcing and in the prescribed time-varying sea surface temperature and sea ice, which are taken from a lower-resolved, but fully coupled atmosphere-ocean general circulation model.

The strongest differences are found for simulations with different heights of the Laurentide ice sheet. A high surface elevation of the Laurentide ice sheet leads to a southward displacement of the jet stream and the storm track in the North Atlantic region. These changes in the atmospheric dynamics generate a band of increased precipitation in the mid-latitudes across the Atlantic to southern Europe in winter, while the precipitation pattern in summer is only marginally affected. The impact of the radiative forcing differences between the two glacial periods and of the prescribed time-varying sea surface temperatures and sea ice are of second order importance compared to the one of the Laurentide ice sheet. They affect the atmospheric dynamics and precipitation in a similar but less pronounced manner compared with the topographic changes.

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