Tropical climate and vegetation changes during Heinrich Event 1: a model-data comparison
Abrupt climate changes from 18 to 15 thousand years before present (kyr BP) associated with Heinrich Event 1 (HE1) had a strong impact on vegetation patterns not only at high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, but also in the tropical regions around the Atlantic Ocean. To gain a better understanding of the linkage between high and low latitudes, we used the University of Victoria (UVic) Earth System-Climate Model (ESCM) with dynamical vegetation and land surface components to simulate four scenarios of climate-vegetation interaction: the pre-industrial era, the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), and a Heinrich-like event with two different climate backgrounds (interglacial and glacial). We calculated mega-biomes from the plant-functional types (PFTs) generated by the model to allow for a direct comparison between model results and palynological vegetation reconstructions.
Our calculated mega-biomes for the pre-industrial period and the LGM corresponded well with biome reconstructions of the modern and LGM time slices, respectively, except that our pre-industrial simulation predicted the dominance of grassland in southern Europe and our LGM simulation resulted in more forest cover in tropical and sub-tropical South America.
The HE1-like simulation with a glacial climate background produced sea-surface temperature patterns and enhanced inter-hemispheric thermal gradients in accordance with the "bipolar seesaw" hypothesis. We found that the cooling of the Northern Hemisphere caused a southward shift of those PFTs that are indicative of an increased desertification and a retreat of broadleaf forests in West Africa and northern South America. The mega-biomes from our HE1 simulation agreed well with paleovegetation data from tropical Africa and northern South America. Thus, according to our model-data comparison, the reconstructed vegetation changes for the tropical regions around the Atlantic Ocean were physically consistent with the remote effects of a Heinrich event under a glacial climate background.