Articles | Volume 10, issue 5
Clim. Past, 10, 1925–1938, 2014
Clim. Past, 10, 1925–1938, 2014

Research article 29 Oct 2014

Research article | 29 Oct 2014

The influence of atmospheric circulation on the mid-Holocene climate of Europe: a data–model comparison

A. Mauri1,*, B. A. S. Davis1,**, P. M. Collins1, and J. O. Kaplan1,** A. Mauri et al.
  • 1ARVE Group, Institute of Environmental Engineering, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland
  • *now at: Institute for Environment and Sustainability, Joint Research Centre, Ispra, Italy
  • **now at: ARVE Group, Institute of Earth Surface Dynamics, University of Lausanne, Switzerland

Abstract. The atmospheric circulation is a key area of uncertainty in climate model simulations of future climate change, especially in mid-latitude regions such as Europe where atmospheric dynamics have a significant role in climate variability. It has been proposed that the mid-Holocene was characterized in Europe by a stronger westerly circulation in winter comparable with a more positive AO/NAO, and a weaker westerly circulation in summer caused by anti-cyclonic blocking near Scandinavia. Model simulations indicate at best only a weakly positive AO/NAO, whilst changes in summer atmospheric circulation have not been widely investigated. Here we use a new pollen-based reconstruction of European mid-Holocene climate to investigate the role of atmospheric circulation in explaining the spatial pattern of seasonal temperature and precipitation anomalies. We find that the footprint of the anomalies is entirely consistent with those from modern analogue atmospheric circulation patterns associated with a strong westerly circulation in winter (positive AO/NAO) and a weak westerly circulation in summer associated with anti-cyclonic blocking (positive SCAND). We find little agreement between the reconstructed anomalies and those from 14 GCMs that performed mid-Holocene experiments as part of the PMIP3/CMIP5 project, which show a much greater sensitivity to top-of-the-atmosphere changes in solar insolation. Our findings are consistent with data–model comparisons on contemporary timescales that indicate that models underestimate the role of atmospheric circulation in recent climate change, whilst also highlighting the importance of atmospheric dynamics in explaining interglacial warming.