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Enhanced ice sheet growth in Eurasia owing to adjacent ice-dammed lakes


Large proglacial lakes cool regional summer climate because of their large heat capacity, and have been shown to modify precipitation through mesoscale atmospheric feedbacks, as in the case of Lake Agassiz1. Several large ice-dammed lakes, with a combined area twice that of the Caspian Sea, were formed in northern Eurasia about 90,000 years ago, during the last glacial period when an ice sheet centred over the Barents and Kara seas2 blocked the large northbound Russian rivers3. Here we present high-resolution simulations with an atmospheric general circulation model that explicitly simulates the surface mass balance of the ice sheet. We show that the main influence of the Eurasian proglacial lakes was a significant reduction of ice sheet melting at the southern margin of the Barents–Kara ice sheet through strong regional summer cooling over large parts of Russia. In our simulations, the summer melt reduction clearly outweighs lake-induced decreases in moisture and hence snowfall, such as has been reported earlier for Lake Agassiz1. We conclude that the summer cooling mechanism from proglacial lakes accelerated ice sheet growth and delayed ice sheet decay in Eurasia and probably also in North America.

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Figure 1: Maximum ice sheet and lake extent in northern Russia during the early Weichselian, about 90,000 yr ago.
Figure 2: Lake-induced climate anomalies between simulation L and simulation NL.
Figure 3: Simulated ice sheet surface mass balance and lake-induced surface mass balance anomaly.


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We thank S. Hostetler for discussions and M. Siegert for comments and suggestions. Model simulations were carried out at IDRIS/CNRS. This work was supported by the ESF and the French national programmes ECLIPSE, PNEDC and ACI Jeunes Chercheurs. The field work and other analyses were funded by the Research Council of Norway by grants to the PECHORA project. M.J. was supported by NOAA.

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Krinner, G., Mangerud, J., Jakobsson, M. et al. Enhanced ice sheet growth in Eurasia owing to adjacent ice-dammed lakes. Nature 427, 429–432 (2004).

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