Simulation of modern and glacial climates with a coupled global model of intermediate complexity

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Abstract

A global coupled ocean–atmosphere model of intermediate complexity is used to simulate the equilibrium climate of both today and the Last Glacial Maximum, around 21,000 years ago. The model successfully predicts the atmospheric and oceanic circulations, temperature distribution, hydrological cycle and sea-ice cover of both periods without using ‘flux adjustments’. Changes in oceanic circulation, particularly in the Atlantic Ocean, play an important role in glacial cooling.

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Figure 1: Zonally averaged annual-mean characteristics: a, air temperature; b,precipitation; c, wind stress over the oceans.
Figure 2: Meridional transport stream function for the Atlantic (top), Indo-Pacific (middle) and global ocean (bottom).
Figure 3: Zonal mean salinity in the Atlantic for the modern climate (a) and the difference between glacial and modern climates (b).
Figure 4: Meridional heat transport curves for the Atlantic (a), the Indo-Pacific (b), the global ocean (c) and the atmosphere.
Figure 5: Annual-mean atmospheric meridional mass transport in units of 109 kg s−1.
Figure 6: Temperature (a, b) and precipitation (c, d) changes in the glacial simulation relative to the modern climate simulation (LGM minus modern).
Figure 7: Glacial changes in three characteristics simulated with the coupled model (solid line) and the slab ocean (dashed line).

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Acknowledgements

S.R. and M.C. acknowledge discussions with S. Joussaume, A. Broccoli and others at the European Science Foundation's Research Conference on Paleoclimate Modelling and Analysis, in Castelvecchio Pascoli. We received comments on the manuscript from E. Bard; D. Smart critically read the manuscript. This work was supported by the European Union's Environment and Climate programme.

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Correspondence to Stefan Rahmstorf.

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