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Climate of the Past An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 13 Jun 2019

Submitted as: research article | 13 Jun 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Climate of the Past (CP).

Hypersensitivity of glacial temperatures in Siberia

Pepijn Bakker1,2, Irina Rogozhina2,3,4, Ute Merkel2, and Matthias Prange2 Pepijn Bakker et al.
  • 1Department of Earth Sciences, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  • 2MARUM-Center for Marine Environmental Sciences, University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany
  • 3Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
  • 4Institute of Physics of the Earth, Russian Academy of Science, Russia

Abstract. Climate change in Siberia is currently receiving a lot of attention as large permafrost-covered areas could provide a strong positive feedback to global warming through the release of carbon that has been sequestered there on glacial-interglacial time scales. Geological evidence and climate model experiments show that the Siberian region also played an exceptional role during glacial periods. The region that is currently known for its harsh cold climate did not experience major glaciations during the last ice age, including its severest stages around the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). On the contrary, it is thought that glacial summer temperatures were comparable to present-day.

We combine LGM experiments from the second and third phases of the Paleoclimate Modelling Intercomparison Project (PMIP2 and PMIP3) with sensitivity experiments with the Community Earth System Model (CESM). Together these climate model experiments reveal that the intermodel spread in LGM summer temperatures in Siberia is much larger than in any other region of the globe and suggest that temperatures in Siberia are highly susceptible to changes in the imposed glacial boundary conditions, the included feedbacks and processes, and to the model physics of the different components of the climate model. We find that changes in the large-scale atmospheric stationary wave pattern and associated northward heat transport drive strong local snow and vegetation feedbacks and that this combination explains the susceptibility of LGM summer temperatures in Siberia. This suggests that a small difference between two glacial periods in terms of climate, ice buildup or their respective evolution towards maximum glacial conditions, can lead to strongly divergent summer temperatures in Siberia, that are sufficiently strong to allow for the buildup of an ice sheet during some glacial periods, while during others, above-freezing summer temperatures will preclude a multi-year snow-pack from forming.

Pepijn Bakker et al.
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Pepijn Bakker et al.
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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Northeastern Siberia is currently know for its harsh cold climate, but during the last ice age summer temperatures were likely not very different from today and it did not experience large-scale glaciation. We show that also from a climate modelling point of view the region is exceptional. A strong divergence in simulated glacial summer temperatures is ultimately controlled by subtle changes in model setup that determine if additional heat is brought to the area by the atmospheric circulation.
Northeastern Siberia is currently know for its harsh cold climate, but during the last ice age...