The nature of MIS 3 stadial-interstadial transitions in Europe: new insights from model-data comparisons

C.J.V.C. van Meerbeeck, H. Renssen, D.M.V.A.P. Roche, B. Wohlfarth, S.J.P. Bohncke, J.A.A. Bos, S. Engels, K.F. Helmens, M.F. Sáncez-Goñi, A. Svensson, J. Vandenberghe

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    15 abrupt warming transitions perturbed glacial climate in Greenland during Marine Isotope Stage 3 (MIS 3, 60-27 ka BP). One hypothesis states that the 8-16 °C warming between Greenland Stadials (GS) and Interstadials (GI) was caused by enhanced heat transport to the North Atlantic region after a resumption of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) from a weak or shutdown stadial mode. This hypothesis also predicts warming over Europe, a prediction poorly constrained by data due to the paucity of well-dated quantitative temperature records. We therefore use a new evidence from biotic proxies and a climate model simulation to study the characteristics of a GS-GI transition in continental Europe and the link to enhanced AMOC strength. We compare reconstructed climatic and vegetation changes between a stadial and subsequent interstadial - correlated to GS15 and GI14 (∼55 ka BP) - with a simulated AMOC resumption using a three-dimensional earth system model setup with early-MIS 3 boundary conditions. Over western Europe (12°W-15°E), we simulate twice the annual precipitation, a 17 °C warmer coldest month, a 8 °C warmer warmest month, 1300 °C-day more growing degree days with baseline 5 °C (GDD5) and potential vegetation allowing tree cover after the transition. However, the combined effect of frequent killing frosts, <20 mm summer precipitation and too few GDD5 after the transition suggest a northern tree limit lying at ∼50°N during GI14. With these 3 climatic limiting factors we provide a possible explanation for the absence of forests north of 48°N during MIS 3 interstadials with mild summers. Finally, apart from a large model bias in warmest month surface air temperatures, our simulation is in reasonable agreement with reconstructed climatic and vegetation changes in Europe, thus further supporting the hypothesis. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)3618-3637
    Number of pages20
    JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
    Issue number25-26
    Publication statusPublished - 2011


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