31 Aug 2022
31 Aug 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal CP.

The climate and vegetation of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East during the Last Glacial Maximum (21,000 years BP) based on pollen data

Basil Andrew Stansfield Davis1, Marc Fasel2, Jed O. Kaplan3, Emmanuele Russo4, and Ariane Burke5 Basil Andrew Stansfield Davis et al.
  • 1Institute of Earth Surface Dynamics, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, 1015, Switzerland
  • 2enviroSPACE lab, Institute for Environmental Sciences, University of Geneva, Geneva, 1211, Switzerland
  • 3Department of Earth Sciences, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, Peoples Republic of China
  • 4Department of Environmental Systems Science, ETH Zurich, Zurich, 8092, Switzerland
  • 5Laboratoire d'Ecomorphologie et de Paleoanthropologie, Departement d'Anthropologie, 12 Universite de Montreal, Montreal, Quebec, H3C 3J7, Canada

Abstract. Pollen data represents one of the most widely available and spatially-resolved sources of information about the past land cover and climate of the Last Glacial Maximum (21,000 years BP). Previous pollen data compilations for Europe, the Mediterranean and the Middle East however have been limited by small numbers of sites and poor dating control. Here we present a new compilation of pollen data from the region that improves on both the number of sites (63) and the quality of the chronological control. Data has been sourced from both public data archives and published (digitized) diagrams. Analysis is presented based on a standardized pollen taxonomy and sum, with maps shown for the major pollen taxa, biomes and total arboreal pollen, as well as quantitative reconstructions of forest cover and winter, summer and annual temperatures and precipitation. The reconstructions are based on the modern analogue technique (MAT) with a modern calibration dataset taken from the latest Eurasian Modern Pollen Database (~8000 samples). A site-by-site comparison of MAT and Inverse Modelling methods shows little or no significant difference between the methods for the LGM, indicating that no-modern-analogue and low CO2 conditions during the LGM do not appear to have had a major effect on MAT transfer function performance. Previous pollen-based climate reconstructions based on MAT show a much colder and drier climate for the LGM than both Inverse Modelling and climate model simulations, but our new results suggest much greater agreement. Differences between our latest MAT reconstruction and those in earlier studies can be largely attributed to bias in the small modern calibration dataset previously used. We also find that quantitative forest cover reconstructions show more forest than that previously suggested by biome reconstructions, but less forest than that suggested by simple percentage arboreal pollen, although uncertainties remain large. Overall, we find that LGM climatic cooling/drying was significantly greater in winter than in summer, but with large site to site variance that emphasizes the importance of topography and other local factors in controlling the climate and vegetation of the LGM.

Basil Andrew Stansfield Davis et al.

Status: open (until 26 Oct 2022)

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Basil Andrew Stansfield Davis et al.

Basil Andrew Stansfield Davis et al.


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Short summary
During the last Ice Age 21 k BP, Northern Europe was covered in ice and steppe, and forests were restricted to sheltered regions to the south. However, the composition and extent of forest and its associated climate remains unclear, with models indicating more forest north of the Alps than suggested by the data. A new compilation of pollen records with improved dating suggests greater agreement with model climate, but still suggests models over estimate forest cover especially in the west.