Intercomparison of simulated global vegetation distributions in response to 6 kyr BP orbital forcing

S. P. Harrison*, D. Jolly, F. Laarif, A. Abe-Ouchi, B. Dong, K. Herterich, C. Hewitt, S. Joussaume, J. E. Kutzbach, J. Mitchell, N. De Noblet, P. Valdes

*Corresponding author for this work

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    The response of ten atmospheric general circulation models to orbital forcing at 6 kyr BP has been investigated using the BIOME model, which predicts equilibrium vegetation distribution, as a diagnostic. Several common features emerge: (a) reduced tropical rain forest as a consequence of increased aridity in the equatorial zone, (b) expansion of moisture-demanding vegetation in the Old World subtropics as a consequence of the expansion of the Afro-Asian monsoon, (c) an increase in warm grass/shrub in the Northern Hemisphere continental interiors in response to warming and enhanced aridity, and (d) a northward shift in the tundra-forest boundary in response to a warmer growing season at high northern latitudes. These broadscale features are consistent from model to model, but there are differences in their expression at a regional scale. Vegetation changes associated with monsoon enhancement and high-latitude summer warming are consistent with palaeoenvironmental observations, but the simulated shifts in vegetation belts are too small in both cases. Vegetation changes due to warmer and more arid conditions in the midcontinents of the Northern Hemisphere are consistent with palaeoenvironmental data from North America, but data from Eurasia suggests conditions were wetter at 6 kyr BP than today. The models show quantitatively similar vegetation changes in the intertropical zone, and in the northern and southern extratropics. The small differences among models in the magnitude of the global vegetation response are not related to differences in global or zonal climate averages, but reflect differences in simulated regional features. Regional-scale analyses will therefore be necessary to identify the underlying causes of such differences among models.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2721-2742
    Number of pages22
    JournalJournal of Climate
    Issue number11
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 1998


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