Infoscience

Journal article

The influence of atmospheric circulation on the mid-Holocene climate of Europe: a data-model comparison

The atmospheric circulation is a key area of uncertainty in climate model simulations of future climate change, especially in mid-latitude regions such as Europe where atmospheric dynamics have a significant role in climate variability. It has been proposed that the mid-Holocene was characterized in Europe by a stronger westerly circulation in winter comparable with a more positive AO/NAO, and a weaker westerly circulation in summer caused by anticyclonic blocking near Scandinavia. Model simulations indicate at best only a weakly positive AO/NAO, whilst changes in summer atmospheric circulation have not been widely investigated. Here we use a new pollen-based reconstruction of European mid-Holocene climate to investigate the role of atmospheric circulation in explaining the spatial pattern of seasonal temperature and precipitation anomalies. We find that the footprint of the anomalies is entirely consistent with those from modern analogue atmospheric circulation patterns associated with a strong westerly circulation in winter (positive AO/NAO) and a weak westerly circulation in summer associated with anti-cyclonic blocking (positive SCAND). We find little agreement between the reconstructed anomalies and those from 14 GCMs that performed mid-Holocene experiments as part of the PMIP3/CMIP5 project, which show a much greater sensitivity to top-of-the-atmosphere changes in solar insolation. Our findings are consistent with data-model comparisons on contemporary timescales that indicate that models underestimate the role of atmospheric circulation in recent climate change, whilst also highlighting the importance of atmospheric dynamics in explaining interglacial warming.

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