The effect of vegetation in a climate model simulation on the Younger Dryas.

H. Renssen, M. Lautenschlager

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    The effect of vegetation on the Younger Dryas (YD) climate is studied by comparing the results of four experiments performed with the ECHAM-4 atmospheric general circulation model (AGCM): (1) modern control climate, (2) simulation with YD boundary conditions, but with modern vegetation, (3 and 4) identical to (2), but with paleo-vegetation. Prescribing paleo-vegetation instead of modern vegetation resulted in temperature anomalies (both positive and negative) of up to 4°C in the Northern Hemisphere mid-latitudes, mainly as an effect of changes in forest cover (change in albedo). Moreover, changes in precipitation and evaporation were found, most notably during December-January-February (DJF) in the tropics and were caused by the replacement of forests by grasslands. These results are consistent with other model studies on the role of vegetation changes on climate and they suggest that it is important in paleoclimate simulation studies to prescribe realistic vegetation types, belonging to the period of interest. However, in our case the addition of YD vegetation did not improve the agreement with proxy data in Europe, as the temperatures were increasing during winter compared to the YD simulation with modern vegetation. It must be noted that this increase was not statistically significant. The model-data mismatch suggests that other factors probably played an important role, such as permafrost and atmospheric dust. We infer that during the last glacial-interglacial transition, the time lag between the first temperature increase and the northward migration of trees, estimated at 500-1000 years, could have delayed the warming of the Eurasian continent. The relatively open vegetation that existed during the early stages of the last glacial-interglacial transition had a relatively high albedo, thus tempering warming up of the Eurasian land surfaces. © 2000 Elsevier Science B.V.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)423-443
    JournalGlobal and Planetary Change
    Publication statusPublished - 2000


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