Articles | Volume 12, issue 8
Clim. Past, 12, 1645–1662, 2016
Clim. Past, 12, 1645–1662, 2016

Research article 17 Aug 2016

Research article | 17 Aug 2016

Mid-to-late Holocene temperature evolution and atmospheric dynamics over Europe in regional model simulations

Emmanuele Russo and Ulrich Cubasch Emmanuele Russo and Ulrich Cubasch
  • Institute of Meteorology – FU-Berlin, Karl-Heinrich-Becker-Weg 6–10, 12165 Berlin, Germany

Abstract. The improvement in resolution of climate models has always been mentioned as one of the most important factors when investigating past climatic conditions, especially in order to evaluate and compare the results against proxy data. Despite this, only a few studies have tried to directly estimate the possible advantages of highly resolved simulations for the study of past climate change.

Motivated by such considerations, in this paper we present a set of high-resolution simulations for different time slices of the mid-to-late Holocene performed over Europe using the state-of-the-art regional climate model COSMO-CLM.

After proposing and testing a model configuration suitable for paleoclimate applications, the aforementioned mid-to-late Holocene simulations are compared against a new pollen-based climate reconstruction data set, covering almost all of Europe, with two main objectives: testing the advantages of high-resolution simulations for paleoclimatic applications, and investigating the response of temperature to variations in the seasonal cycle of insolation during the mid-to-late Holocene. With the aim of giving physically plausible interpretations of the mismatches between model and reconstructions, possible uncertainties of the pollen-based reconstructions are taken into consideration.

Focusing our analysis on near-surface temperature, we can demonstrate that concrete advantages arise in the use of highly resolved data for the comparison against proxy-reconstructions and the investigation of past climate change.

Additionally, our results reinforce previous findings showing that summertime temperatures during the mid-to-late Holocene were driven mainly by changes in insolation and that the model is too sensitive to such changes over Southern Europe, resulting in drier and warmer conditions. However, in winter, the model does not correctly reproduce the same amplitude of changes evident in the reconstructions, even if it captures the main pattern of the pollen data set over most of the domain for the time periods under investigation. Through the analysis of variations in atmospheric circulation we suggest that, even though the wintertime discrepancies between the two data sets in some areas are most likely due to high pollen uncertainties, in general the model seems to underestimate the changes in the amplitude of the North Atlantic Oscillation, overestimating the contribution of secondary modes of variability.

Short summary
In this study we use a RCM for three different goals. Proposing a model configuration suitable for paleoclimate studies; evaluating the added value of a regional climate model for paleoclimate studies; investigating temperature evolution of the European continent during mid-to-late Holocene. Results suggest that the RCM seems to produce results in better agreement with reconstructions than its driving GCM. Simulated temperature evolution seems to be too sensitive to changes in insolation.