Synergistic feedbacks between ocean and vegetation on mid- and high-latitude climates during the mid-Holocene

J. Wohlfahrt*, S. P. Harrison, P. Braconnot

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    78 Citations (Scopus)


    Simulations with the IPSL atmosphere-ocean model asynchronously coupled with the BIOMEI vegetation model show the impact of ocean and vegetation feedbacks, and their synergy, on mid- and high-latitude (>40°N) climate in response to orbitally-induced changes in mid-Holocene insolation. The atmospheric response to orbital forcing produces a + 1.2 °C warming over the continents in summer and a cooling during the rest of the year. Ocean feedback reinforces the cooling in spring but counteracts the autumn and winter cooling. Vegetation feedback produces warming in all seasons, with largest changes (+ 1 °C) in spring. Synergy between ocean and vegetation feedbacks leads to further warming, which can be as large as the independent impact of these feedbacks. The combination of these effects causes the high northern latitudes to be warmer throughout the year in the ocean-atmosphere-vegetation simulation. Simulated vegetation changes resulting from this year-round warming are consistent with observed mid-Holocene vegetation patterns. Feedbacks also impact on precipitation. The atmospheric response to orbital-forcing reduces precipitation throughout the year; the most marked changes occur in the mid-latitudes in summer. Ocean feedback reduces aridity during autumn, winter and spring, but does not affect summer precipitation. Vegetation feedback increases spring precipitation but amplifies summer drying. Synergy between the feedbacks increases precipitation in autumn, winter and spring, and reduces precipitation in summer. The combined changes amplify the seasonal contrast in precipitation in the ocean-atmosphere-vegetation simulation. Enhanced summer drought produces an unrealistically large expansion of temperate grasslands, particularly in mid-latitude Eurasia.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)223-238
    Number of pages16
    JournalClimate Dynamics
    Issue number2-3
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2004


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