Last interglacial temperature evolution – a model inter-comparison
Krebs- Kanzow, U.
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Abstract. There is a growing number of proxy-based reconstructions detailing the climatic changes during the Last Interglacial period. This period is of special interest because large parts of the globe were characterized by a warmer-than-present-day climate, making this period an interesting test bed for climate models in the light of projected global warming. However, mainly because synchronizing the different records is difficult, there is no consensus on a global picture of Last Interglacial temperature changes. Here we present the first model inter-comparison of transient simulations covering the Last Interglacial period. By comparing the different simulations we aim at investigating the robustness of the simulated surface air temperature evolution. The model inter-comparison shows a robust Northern Hemisphere July temperature evolution characterized by a maximum between 130–122 ka BP with temperatures 0.4 to 6.8 K above pre-industrial values. This temperature evolution is in line with the changes in June insolation and greenhouse-gas concentrations. For the evolution of July temperatures in the Southern Hemisphere, the picture emerging from the inter-comparison is less clear. However, it does show that including greenhouse-gas concentration changes is critical. The simulations that include this forcing show an early, 128 ka BP July temperature anomaly maximum of 0.5 to 2.6 K. The robustness of simulated January temperatures is large in the Southern Hemisphere and the mid-latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. In these latitudes maximum January temperature anomalies of respectively −2.5 to 2 K and 0 to 2 K are simulated for the period after 118 ka BP. The inter-comparison is inconclusive on the evolution of January temperatures in the high-latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. Further investigation of regional anomalous patterns and inter-model differences indicate that in specific regions, feedbacks within the climate system are important for the simulated temperature evolution. Firstly in the Arctic region, changes in the summer sea-ice cover control the evolution of Last Interglacial winter temperatures. Secondly, for the Atlantic region, the Southern Ocean and the North Pacific, possible changes in the characteristics of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation are critical. The third important feedback, having an impact on the temperature evolution of the Northern Hemisphere, is shown to be the presence of remnant continental ice from the preceding glacial period. Another important feedback are changes in the monsoon regime which controls the evolution of temperatures over parts of Africa and India. Finally, the simulations reveal an important land-sea contrast, with temperature changes over the oceans lagging continental temperatures by up to several thousand years. The aforementioned feedback mechanisms tend to be highly model-dependent, indicating that specific proxy-data is needed to constrain future climate simulations and to further enhance our understanding of the evolution of the climate during the Last Interglacial period.