Articles | Volume 7, issue 4
Clim. Past, 7, 1139–1148, 2011
Clim. Past, 7, 1139–1148, 2011

Research article 08 Nov 2011

Research article | 08 Nov 2011

Evolution of the seasonal temperature cycle in a transient Holocene simulation: orbital forcing and sea-ice

N. Fischer1,2 and J. H. Jungclaus1 N. Fischer and J. H. Jungclaus
  • 1Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Hamburg, Germany
  • 2International Max Planck Research School for Earth System Modelling, Hamburg, Germany

Abstract. Changes in the Earth's orbit lead to changes in the seasonal and meridional distribution of insolation. We quantify the influence of orbitally induced changes on the seasonal temperature cycle in a transient simulation of the last 6000 years – from the mid-Holocene to today – using a coupled atmosphere-ocean general circulation model (ECHAM5/MPI-OM) including a land surface model (JSBACH).

The seasonal temperature cycle responds directly to the insolation changes almost everywhere. In the Northern Hemisphere, its amplitude decreases according to an increase in winter insolation and a decrease in summer insolation. In the Southern Hemisphere, the opposite is true.

Over the Arctic Ocean, decreasing summer insolation leads to an increase in sea-ice cover. The insulating effect of sea ice between the ocean and the atmosphere leads to decreasing heat flux and favors more "continental" conditions over the Arctic Ocean in winter, resulting in strongly decreasing temperatures. Consequently, there are two competing effects: the direct response to insolation changes and a sea-ice insulation effect. The sea-ice insulation effect is stronger, and thus an increase in the amplitude of the seasonal temperature cycle over the Arctic Ocean occurs. This increase is strongest over the Barents Shelf and influences the temperature response over northern Europe.

We compare our modeled seasonal temperatures over Europe to paleo reconstructions. We find better agreements in winter temperatures than in summer temperatures and better agreements in northern Europe than in southern Europe, since the model does not reproduce the southern European Holocene summer cooling inferred from the paleo reconstructions. The temperature reconstructions for northern Europe support the notion of the influence of the sea-ice insulation effect on the evolution of the seasonal temperature cycle.