The impact of precession changes on the Arctic climate during the last interglacial-glacial transition

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Earth and Planetary Science Letters
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Jul 30
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Three sensitivity experiments using an Ocean Atmosphere General Circulation Model (OAGCM) are conducted to simulate the climate impact of precession. The relative contributions of components of the hydrological cycle including the albedo of Arctic sea ice, advection of atmospheric water vapor and sea surface temperature to the summer Arctic melt process are evaluated. Timing of the perihelion is varied in each experiment with meteorological spring (SP), winter (WP) and autumn (AP) perihelion corresponding to conditions at 110, 115 and 120 ky BP, respectively. Obliquity is unchanged at the 115 ky level which is lower than today. The experiments are assessed relative to the present day control, which has been shown to simulate current conditions based on observations. In the SP experiment, top of the atmosphere (TOA) insolation is weaker than today between the summer solstice and autumnal equinox.In the AP case representing the interglacial, it is less intense between vernal equinox and summer solstice but stronger during the remainder of the year. Although the incident solar radiation is reduced in summer in the SP experiment, increased melting of snow is found primarily as a result of feedbacks from the delayed seasonal cycle of hydrologic components. This is in contrast to both the WP and AP cases in which the perennial snow cover is simulated.At the time of the last glacial inception, 115 ky BP, the WP experiment shows lower insolation to the high northern latitudes in late spring and summer mainly as a result of lower obliquity than today. Dynamical ocean-atmospbere interactions in response to precession maintain the reduced sea ice melting in late spring, strengthen the annual equator-to-pole sea surface temperature (SST) gradient and increase atmospheric moisture convergence in glaciation-sensitive regions. In both the WP and AP experiments seasonal sea ice melting is weakened resulting in pronounced outgoing radiative flux at the locations of expanded sea ice. This leads to further cooling and increased snowfall due to the reduced atmospheric water holding capacity and increased atmospheric moisture convergence from the subtropical Atlantic.In agreement with Milankovitch theory, our results show favorable conditions for glacial inception at 115 ky BP but with obliquity unchanged, they also show perennial snow cover at 120 ky BP resulting from the reduced strength of spring insolation. (c) 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


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DOI 10.1016/j.epsl.2005.05.011