Articles | Volume 6, issue 2
25 Mar 2010
 | 25 Mar 2010

Effects of orbital forcing on atmosphere and ocean heat transports in Holocene and Eemian climate simulations with a comprehensive Earth system model

N. Fischer and J. H. Jungclaus

Abstract. Orbital forcing does not only exert direct insolation effects, but also alters climate indirectly through feedback mechanisms that modify atmosphere and ocean dynamics and meridional heat and moisture transfers. We investigate the regional effects of these changes by detailed analysis of atmosphere and ocean circulation and heat transports in a coupled atmosphere-ocean-sea ice-biosphere general circulation model (ECHAM5/JSBACH/MPI-OM). We perform long term quasi equilibrium simulations under pre-industrial, mid-Holocene (6000 years before present – yBP), and Eemian (125 000 yBP) orbital boundary conditions. Compared to pre-industrial climate, Eemian and Holocene temperatures show generally warmer conditions at higher and cooler conditions at lower latitudes. Changes in sea-ice cover, ocean heat transports, and atmospheric circulation patterns lead to pronounced regional heterogeneity. Over Europe, the warming is most pronounced over the north-eastern part in accordance with recent reconstructions for the Holocene. We attribute this warming to enhanced ocean circulation in the Nordic Seas and enhanced ocean-atmosphere heat flux over the Barents Shelf in conduction with retreat of sea ice and intensified winter storm tracks over northern Europe.