Articles | Volume 11, issue 7
Clim. Past, 11, 979–989, 2015
Clim. Past, 11, 979–989, 2015

Research article 10 Jul 2015

Research article | 10 Jul 2015

A GCM comparison of Pleistocene super-interglacial periods in relation to Lake El'gygytgyn, NE Arctic Russia

A. J. Coletti1, R. M. DeConto1, J. Brigham-Grette1, and M. Melles2 A. J. Coletti et al.
  • 1Department of Geosciences, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003, USA
  • 2Institute of Geology and Mineralogy, University of Cologne, Zülpicher Strasse 49a, 50674 Cologne, Germany

Abstract. Until now, the lack of time-continuous, terrestrial paleoenvironmental data from the Pleistocene Arctic has made model simulations of past interglacials difficult to assess. Here, we compare climate simulations of four warm interglacials at Marine Isotope Stages (MISs) 1 (9 ka), 5e (127 ka), 11c (409 ka) and 31 (1072 ka) with new proxy climate data recovered from Lake El'gygytgyn, NE Russia. Climate reconstructions of the mean temperature of the warmest month (MTWM) indicate conditions up to 0.4, 2.1, 0.5 and 3.1 °C warmer than today during MIS 1, 5e, 11c and 31, respectively. While the climate model captures much of the observed warming during each interglacial, largely in response to boreal summer (JJA) orbital forcing, the extraordinary warmth of MIS 11c compared to the other interglacials in the Lake El'gygytgyn temperature proxy reconstructions remains difficult to explain. To deconvolve the contribution of multiple influences on interglacial warming at Lake El'gygytgyn, we isolated the influence of vegetation, sea ice and circum-Arctic land ice feedbacks on the modeled climate of the Beringian interior. Simulations accounting for climate–vegetation–land-surface feedbacks during all four interglacials show expanding boreal forest cover with increasing summer insolation intensity. A deglaciated Greenland is shown to have a minimal effect on northeast Asian temperature during the warmth of stages 11c and 31 (Melles et al., 2012). A prescribed enhancement of oceanic heat transport into the Arctic Ocean does have some effect on Lake El'gygytgyn's regional climate, but the exceptional warmth of MIS l1c remains enigmatic compared to the modest orbital and greenhouse gas forcing during that interglacial.

Short summary
Evidence from Pleistocene sediments suggest that the Arctic's climate went through multiple sudden transitions, warming by 2-4 °C (compared to preindustrial times), and stayed warm for hundreds to thousands of years. A climate modelling study of these events suggests that the Arctic's climate and landscape drastically changed, transforming a cold and barren landscape as we know today to a warm, lush, evergreen and boreal forest landscape only seen in the modern midlatitudes.