Water isotopes - climate relationships for the mid-Holocene and preindustrial period simulated with an isotope-enabled version of MPI-ESM

Type Article
Date 2019-11
Language English
Author(s) Cauquoin AlexandreORCID1, Werner MartinORCID1, Lohmann GerritORCID1
Affiliation(s) 1 : Helmholtz Ctr Polar & Marine Sci, Alfred Wegener Inst, Bremerhaven, Germany.
Source Climate Of The Past (1814-9324) (Copernicus Gesellschaft Mbh), 2019-11 , Vol. 15 , N. 6 , P. 1913-1937
DOI 10.5194/cp-15-1913-2019
WOS© Times Cited 28
Note Special issue | Paleoclimate data synthesis and analysis of associated uncertainty (BG/CP/ESSD inter-journal SI) Editor(s): A. Paul, C. Ohlwein, and L. Jonkers Special issue jointly organized between Biogeosciences, Climate of the Past, and Earth System Science Data

We present here the first results, for the preindustrial and mid-Holocene climatological periods, of the newly developed isotope-enhanced version of the fully coupled Earth system model MPI-ESM, called hereafter MPI-ESM-wiso. The water stable isotopes (H2O)-O-16, (H2O)-O-18 and HDO have been implemented into all components of the coupled model setup. The mid-Holocene provides the opportunity to evaluate the model response to changes in the seasonal and latitudinal distribution of insolation induced by different orbital forcing conditions. The results of our equilibrium simulations allow us to evaluate the performance of the isotopic model in simulating the spatial and temporal variations of water isotopes in the different compartments of the hydrological system for warm climates. For the preindustrial climate, MPI-ESM-wiso reproduces very well the observed spatial distribution of the isotopic content in precipitation linked to the spatial variations in temperature and precipitation rate. We also find a good model-data agreement with the observed distribution of isotopic composition in surface seawater but a bias with the presence of surface seawater that is too O-18-depleted in the Arctic Ocean. All these results are improved compared to the previous model version ECHAM5/MPIOM. The spatial relationships of water isotopic composition with temperature, precipitation rate and salinity are consistent with observational data. For the preindustrial climate, the interannual relationships of water isotopes with temperature and salinity are globally lower than the spatial ones, consistent with previous studies. Simulated results under mid-Holocene conditions are in fair agreement with the isotopic measurements from ice cores and continental speleothems. MPI-ESM-wiso simulates a decrease in the isotopic composition of precipitation from North Africa to the Tibetan Plateau via India due to the enhanced monsoons during the mid-Holocene. Over Greenland, our simulation indicates a higher isotopic composition of precipitation linked to higher summer temperature and a reduction in sea ice, shown by positive isotope-temperature gradient. For the Antarctic continent, the model simulates lower isotopic values over the East Antarctic plateau, linked to the lower temperatures during the mid-Holocene period, while similar or higher isotopic values are modeled over the rest of the continent. While variations of isotopic contents in precipitation over West Antarctica between mid-Holocene and preindustrial periods are partly controlled by changes in temperature, the transport of relatively O-18-rich water vapor near the coast to the western ice core sites could play a role in the final isotopic composition. So, more caution has to be taken about the reconstruction of past temperature variations during warm periods over this area. The coupling of such a model with an ice sheet model or the use of a zoomed grid centered on this region could help to better describe the role of the water vapor transport and sea ice around West Antarctica. The reconstruction of past salinity through isotopic content in sea surface waters can be complicated for regions with strong ocean dynamics, variations in sea ice regimes or significant changes in freshwater budget, giving an extremely variable relationship between the isotopic content and salinity of ocean surface waters over small spatial scales. These complicating factors demonstrate the complexity of interpreting water isotopes as past climate signals of warm periods like the mid-Holocene. A systematic isotope model intercomparison study for further insights on the model dependency of these results would be beneficial.

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