Potential role of vegetation feedback in the climate sensitivity of high-latitude regions: A case study at 6000 years B.P.

J. E. Kutzbach, P. J. Bartlein, J. A. Foley, S. P. Harrison, S. W. Hostetler, Z. Liu, I. C. Prentice, T. Webb

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113 Citations (Scopus)


Previous climate model simulations have shown that the configuration of the Earth's orbit during the early to mid-Holocene (approximately 10-5 kyr) can account for the generally warmer-than-present conditions experienced by the high latitudes of the northern hemisphere. New simulations for 6 kyr with two atmospheric/mixed-layer ocean models (Community Climate Model, version 1, CCMl, and Global ENvironmental and Ecological Simulation of Interactive Systems, version 2, GENESIS 2) are presented here and compared with results from two previous simulations with GENESIS 1 that were obtained with and without the albedo feedback due to climate-induced poleward expansion of the boreal forest. The climate model results are summarized in the form of potential vegetation maps obtained with the global BIOME model, which facilitates visual comparisons both among models and with pollen and plant macrofossil data recording shifts of the forest-tundra boundary. A preliminary synthesis shows that the forest limit was shifted 100-200 km north in most sectors. Both CCMl and GENESIS 2 produced a shift of this magnitude. GENESIS 1 however produced too small a shift, except when the boreal forest albedo feedback was included. The feedback in this case was estimated to have amplified forest expansion by approximately 50%. The forest limit changes also show meridional patterns (greatest expansion in central Siberia and little or none in Alaska and Labrador) which have yet to be reproduced by models. Further progress in understanding of the processes involved in the response of climate and vegetation to orbital forcing will require both the deployment of coupled atmosphere-biosphere-ocean models and the development of more comprehensive observational data sets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)727-736
Number of pages10
JournalGlobal Biogeochemical Cycles
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 1996
Externally publishedYes


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