Articles | Volume 7, issue 1
22 Feb 2011
 | 22 Feb 2011

A comparison of climate simulations for the last glacial maximum with three different versions of the ECHAM model and implications for summer-green tree refugia

K. Arpe, S. A. G. Leroy, and U. Mikolajewicz

Abstract. Model simulations of the last glacial maximum (21 ± 2 ka) with the ECHAM3 T42 atmosphere-only, ECHAM5-MPIOM T31 atmosphere-ocean coupled and ECHAM5 T106 atmosphere-only models are compared. The topography, land-sea mask and glacier distribution for the ECHAM5 simulations were taken from the Paleoclimate Modelling Intercomparison Project Phase II (PMIP2) data set while for ECHAM3 they were taken from PMIP1. The ECHAM5-MPIOM T31 model produced its own sea surface temperatures (SST) while the ECHAM5 T106 simulations were forced at the boundaries by this coupled model SSTs corrected from their present-day biases and the ECHAM3 T42 model was forced with prescribed SSTs provided by Climate/Long-Range Investigation, Mapping, and Prediction project (CLIMAP).

The SSTs in the ECHAM5-MPIOM simulation for the last glacial maximum (LGM) were much warmer in the northern Atlantic than those suggested by CLIMAP or Overview of Glacial Atlantic Ocean Mapping (GLAMAP) while the SSTs were cooler everywhere else. This had a clear effect on the temperatures over Europe, warmer for winters in western Europe and cooler for eastern Europe than the simulation with CLIMAP SSTs.

Considerable differences in the general circulation patterns were found in the different simulations. A ridge over western Europe for the present climate during winter in the 500 hPa height field remains in both ECHAM5 simulations for the LGM, more so in the T106 version, while the ECHAM3 CLIMAP-SST simulation provided a trough which is consistent with cooler temperatures over western Europe. The zonal wind between 30° W and 10° E shows a southward shift of the polar and subtropical jets in the simulations for the LGM, least obvious in the ECHAM5 T31 one, and an extremely strong polar jet for the ECHAM3 CLIMAP-SST run. The latter can probably be assigned to the much stronger north-south gradient in the CLIMAP SSTs. The southward shift of the polar jet during the LGM is supported by palaeo-data.

Cyclone tracks in winter represented by high precipitation are characterised over Europe for the present by a main branch from the British Isles to Norway and a secondary branch towards the Mediterranean Sea, observed and simulated. For the LGM the different models show very different solutions: the ECHAM3 CLIMAP-SST simulation shows just one track going eastward from the British Isles into central Europe, while the ECHAM5 T106 simulation still has two branches but during the LGM the main one goes to the Mediterranean Sea, with enhanced precipitation in the Levant. This agrees with an observed high stand of the Dead Sea during the LGM. For summer the ECHAM5 T106 simulation provides much more precipitation for the present over Europe than the other simulations, thus agreeing with estimates by the Global Precipitation Climatology Project (GPCP). Also during the LGM this model makes Europe less arid than the other simulations.

In many respects the ECHAM5 T106 simulation for the present is more realistic than the ECHAM5 T31 coupled simulation and the older ECHAM3 T42 simulation, when comparing them with the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) reanalysis or the GPCP precipitation data. For validating the model data for the LGM, pollen, wood and charcoal analyses were compared with possible summer-green tree growth from model estimates using summer precipitation, minimum winter temperatures and growing degree days (above 5 °C). The ECHAM5 T106 simulation suggests for more sites with findings of palaeo-data, likely tree growth during the LGM than the other simulations, especially over western Europe. The clear message especially from the ECHAM5 T106 simulation is that warm-loving summer-green trees could have survived mainly in Spain but also in Greece in agreement with findings of pollen or charcoal. Southern Italy is also suggested but this could not be validated because of absence of palaeo-data.

Previous climate simulations of the LGM have suggested less cold and more humid climate than that reconstructed from pollen findings. Our model results do agree more or less with those of other models but we do not find a contradiction with palaeo-data because we use the pollen data directly without an intermediate reconstruction of temperatures and precipitation from the pollen spectra.