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Earth System Dynamics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union

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© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Research article
03 Jul 2017
Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Earth System Dynamics (ESD).
Earth system model simulations show different carbon cycle feedback strengths under glacial and interglacial conditions
Markus Adloff1,2,a, Christian H. Reick1, and Martin Claussen1,2 1Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Bundesstraße 53, 20146 Hamburg, Germany
2Meteorological Institute, Centrum für Erdsystemforschung und Nachhaltigkeit (CEN), Universität Hamburg, Germany
anow: School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, University Road, BS8 1SS, United Kingdom
Abstract. In Earth system model simulations we find different carbon cycle sensitivities for recent and glacial climate. This result is obtained by comparing the transient response of the terrestrial carbon cycle to a fast and strong atmospheric CO2 concentration increase (roughly 1000ppm) in C4MIP type simulations starting from climate conditions of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) and from Pre-Industrial times (PI). The sensitivity β to CO2 fertilization is larger in the LGM experiment during most of the simulation time: The fertilization effect leads to a terrestrial carbon gain in the LGM experiment almost twice as large as in the PI experiment. The larger fertilization effect in the LGM experiment is caused by the stronger initial CO2 limitation of photosynthesis, implying a stronger potential for its release upon CO2 concentration increase. In contrast, the sensitivity γ to climate change induced by the radiation effect of rising CO2 is larger in the PI experiment for most of the simulation time. Yet, climate change is less pronounced in the PI experiment, resulting in only slightly higher terrestrial carbon losses than in the LGM experiment. The stronger climate sensitivity in the PI experiment results from the vastly more extratropical soil carbon under those interglacial conditions whose respiration is enhanced under climate change. Comparing the radiation and fertilization effect in a factor analysis, we find that they are almost additive, i.e. their synergy is small in the global sum of carbon changes. From this additivity, we find that the carbon cycle feedback strength is more negative in the LGM than in the PI simulations.
Citation: Adloff, M., Reick, C. H., and Claussen, M.: Earth system model simulations show different carbon cycle feedback strengths under glacial and interglacial conditions, Earth Syst. Dynam. Discuss.,, in review, 2017.
Markus Adloff et al.
Markus Adloff et al.
Markus Adloff et al.


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Short summary
Computer simulations show that during an ice age a strong atmospheric CO2 increase would have resulted in a stronger carbon uptake of the continents than today. Causes are the larger potential of glacial vegetation to increase its photosynthetic efficiency under increasing CO2 and the much less carbon stored in extratropical soils during an ice age that can be released under greenhouse warming. Hence, for different climates the Earth system is differently sensitive to carbon cycle perturbations.
Computer simulations show that during an ice age a strong atmospheric CO2 increase would have...