Sensitivity of interglacial Greenland temperature and δ18O to orbital and CO2 forcing: climate simulations and ice core data
The sensitivity of interglacial Greenland temperature to orbital and CO2 forcing is investigated using the NorthGRIP ice core data and coupled ocean-atmosphere IPSL-CM4 model simulations. These simulations were conducted in response to different interglacial orbital configurations, and to increased CO2 concentrations. These different forcings cause very distinct simulated seasonal and latitudinal temperature and water cycle changes, limiting the analogies between the last interglacial and future climate. However, the IPSL-CM4 model shows similar magnitudes of Arctic summer warming and climate feedbacks in response to 2 × CO2 and orbital forcing of the last interglacial period (126 000 yr ago).
The IPSL model produces a remarkably linear relationship between top of atmosphere incoming summer solar radiation and simulated changes in summer and annual mean central Greenland temperature. This contrasts with the stable isotope record from the Greenland ice cores, showing a multi-millennial lagged response to summer insolation. During the early part of interglacials, the observed lags may be explained by ice sheet-ocean feedbacks linked with changes in ice sheet elevation and the impact of meltwater on ocean circulation, as investigated with sensitivity studies.
A quantitative comparison between ice core data and climate simulations requires to explore the stability of the stable isotope - temperature relationship. Atmospheric simulations including water stable isotopes have been conducted with the LMDZiso model under different boundary conditions. This set of simulations allows to calculate a temporal Greenland isotope-temperature slope (0.3-0.4 ‰ per °C) during warmer than present Arctic climates, in response to increased CO2, increased ocean temperature and orbital forcing. This temporal slope appears twice as small as the modern spatial gradient and is consistent with other ice core estimates. A preliminary comparison with other model results implies that other mechanisms could also play a role. This suggests that further simulations and detailed inter-model comparisons are also likely to be of benefit.
Comparisons with Greenland ice core stable isotope data reveals that IPSL/LMDZiso simulations strongly underestimate the amplitude of the ice core signal during the last interglacial, which could reach +8-10 °C at fixed-elevation. While the model-data mismatch may result from missing positive feedbacks (e.g. vegetation), it could also be explained by a reduced elevation of the central Greenland ice sheet surface by 300-400 m.