On multiple solutions of the atmosphere–vegetation system in present-day climate


M. Claussen, fax + 49/(0)331 2882600, e-mail claussen@pik-potsdam.de


An asynchronously coupled global atmosphere–biome model is used to assess the stability of the atmosphere–vegetation system under present-day conditions of solar irradiation and sea-surface temperatures. When initialized with different land-surface conditions (1, the continents, except for regions of inland ice, completely covered with forest; 2, with grassland; 3, with (dark) desert; and 4, with (bright) sand desert), the atmosphere–biome model finds two equilibrium solutions: the first solution yields the present-day distribution of subtropical deserts, the second reveals a moister climate in North Africa and Central East Asia and thereby a northward shift of vegetation particularly in the south-western Sahara. The first solution is obtained with initial condition 4, and the second with 1, 2, 3. When comparing these results with an earlier study of biogeophysical feedback in the African and Asian monsoon area, it can be concluded that North Africa is probably the region on Earth which is most sensitive considering bifurcations of the atmosphere–vegetation system at the global scale.