The impact of climate-vegetation interactions on the onset of the Antarctic ice sheet

Authors


Abstract

A global coupled atmosphere/vegetation model and a dynamic ice sheet model were employed to study the impact of climate-vegetation interactions on the onset of the Antarctic ice sheet during the Eocene-Oligocene transition. We found that the CO2 threshold for Antarctic glaciation is highly sensitive to the prevailing vegetation. In our experiments, the CO2 threshold is less than 280 ppm if the Antarctic vegetation is dominated by forests and between 560 and 1120 ppm for tundra and bare ground conditions. The large impact of vegetation on inception is attributed to the ability of canopies to shade the snow-covered ground, which leads to a weaker snow albedo feedback and higher summer temperatures. However, the overall effect of canopy shading on the Antarctic climate also depends on features like local cloudiness and atmospheric meridional heat transport. Our results suggest that vegetation feedbacks on climate are crucial for the timing of the Antarctic glaciation.