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Licentiate seminar

Modelling the early to mid-Holocene Arctic climate


Defendant Main Advisor Extra Advisor Date
Marit Berger Arne Johansson Jenny Brandefelt 2013-09-27

Opponent

Evaluation committee

Abstract

In the recent past it has become evident that the Earth’s climate is changing, and that human activity play a significant role in these changes. One of the regions where the ongoing climate change has been most evident is in the Arctic: the surface temperature has increased twice as much in this region as compared to the global average, in addition, a significant decline in the Arctic sea-ice extent has been observed in the past decades. Climate model studies of past climates are important tools to understand the ongoing climate change and how the Earth’s climate may respond to changes in the forcing. This thesis includes studies of the Arctic climate in simulations of the early and mid-Holocene, 9 000 and 6 000 years before present. Changes in the Earth’s orbital parameters resulted in increased summer insolation as compared to present day, especially at high northern latitudes. Geological data imply that the surface temperatures in the early to mid Holocene were similar to those projected for the near future. In addition, the geological data implies that the Arctic sea ice cover was significantly reduced in this period. This makes the early to mid-Holocene an interesting period to study with respect to the changes observed in the region at present. Several model studies of the mid-Holocene have been performed through the Paleoclimate Modeling Intercomparison Project (PMIP1 to PMIP3). The simulations have been performed with climate models of varying complexity, from atmosphere-only models in the first phase to fully coupled models with the same resolution as used for future climate simulations in the third phase. The first part of this thesis investigates the simulated sea ice in the pre-industrial and mid-Holocene simulations included in the PMIP2 and PMIP3 ensemble. As the complexity of the models increases, the models simulate smaller extents and thinner sea ice in the Arctic; the sea-ice extent suggested by the proxy data for the mid-Holocene is however not reproduced by the majority of the models. One possible explanation for the discrepancy between the simulated and reconstructed Arctic sea ice extent is missing or inadequate representations of important processes. The representation of atmospheric aerosol direct and indirect effects in past climates is a candidate process. Previous studies of deeper time periods have concluded that the representation of the direct and indirect effects of the atmospheric aerosols can influence the simulated climates, and reduce the equator to pole temperature gradient in past warm climates, in better agreement with reconstructions. The second part of the thesis investigates the influence of aerosol on the early Holocene climate. The indirect effect of reduced aerosol concentrations as compared to the present day is found to cause an amplification of the warming, especially in the Arctic region. A better agreement with reconstructed Arctic sea ice extent is thus achieved.
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