Modelling climate response to historical land cover change




In order to estimate the effect of historical land cover change (deforestation) on climate, we perform a set of experiments with a climate system model of intermediate complexity – CLIMBER-2. We focus on the biophysical effect of the land cover change on climate and do not explicitly account for the biogeochemical effect. A dynamic scenario of deforestation during the last millennium is formulated based on the rates of land conversion to agriculture. The deforestation scenario causes a global cooling of 0.35 °C with a more notable cooling of the northern hemisphere (0.5 °C). The cooling is most pronounced in the northern middle and high latitudes, especially during the spring season. To compare the effect of deforestation on climate with other forcings, climate responses to the changing atmospheric CO2 concentration and solar irradiance are also analysed. When all three factors are taken into account, dynamics of northern hemisphere temperature during the last 300 years within the model are generally in agreement with the observed (reconstructed) temperature trend. We conclude that the impact of historical land cover changes on climate is comparable with the impact of the other climate forcings and that land cover forcing is important for reproducing historical climate change.