Sensitivity of the northern extratropics hydrological cycle to the changing insolation forcing at 126 and 115 ky BP

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Climate Dynamics
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The orbital configuration at the end of the last interglacial, 115,000 years BP (115 ky BP), was such that the Northern Hemisphere seasonal contrast was decreased when compared to the last interglacial maximum, 126 ky BP. Climatic reconstructions argue for increased latitudinal surface temperature and salinity gradients in the North Atlantic at 115 ky BP compared to 126 ky BP. According to proxy measurements the high-latitude ocean freshening may be explained by enhanced northward atmospheric moisture advection which would have then led to decreased deep convection activity in the northern seas. To evaluate such re-adjustments of the atmospheric circulation to the insolation forcing changes, we have explored the changes in atmospheric energy balance and transport with two AGCM experiments, one for each climate. We show that the northward increase in static heat transport at 115 ky BP to 126 ky BP constitutes a first order response to the changing insolation. It tends to equalise the heat balance of the atmosphere. Despite sea surface temperatures fixed (SSTs) to present-day this feature is strongly amplified by the air-sea heat flux exchanges. By comparing with OAGCM experiments for the same periods, we find that the simulated surface ocean heat flux responses to insolation forcing are similar whether the ocean is allowed to vary or not. The latent heat transport does not undergo the same changes as the dry static one. On an annual basis, it decreases over the high northern latitudes. This is the result of summer modification of moisture sources and transient activity. The latter appears to affect latent heat transport much more than the dry static one. The winter response, however, differs from the summer response which dominates the annual mean. There is an enhanced northward atmospheric moisture advection during winter at 115 ky BP, which is responsible for the freshening of high-latitude ocean during this season. This result seems to confirm the hypothesis inferred from marine data.


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DOI 10.1007/s00382-003-0333-5