THE link between glacial–interglacial cycles and changes in insolation due to variations in the Earth's orbital parameters is well established1–4. But of the attempts to simulate incipient glaciation using three-dimensional general circulation models (GCMs) driven by orbital forcing alone5–10, only one10 has been successful. GCM experiments7,11 show that reduced summer insolation 115,000 years ago (during an interglacial-to-glacial climate shift) produces sufficient high-latitude cooling to cause expansion of tundra at the expense of boreal forest11, which in turn can induce more cooling11–14. Here we show, using a global climate model, that the increase in surface albedo (under snow-covered conditions) that results from a biome model estimate11 of tundra expansion 115,000 years ago is sufficient to induce glaciation over extreme-northeastern Canada. If the additional cooling from this estimated tundra expansion induces further expansion, then widespread glaciation occurs at latitudes above 65° N. These results suggest that the climate feedback from high-latitude tundra expansion might have contributed to the onset of the most recent glaciation.
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Gallimore, R., Kutzbach, J. Role of orbitally induced changes in tundra area in the onset of glaciation. Nature 381, 503–505 (1996). https://doi.org/10.1038/381503a0
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