This study evaluates different hypotheses of the origin of the Little Ice Age, focusing on the long-term response of Arctic sea ice and oceanic circulation to solar and volcanic perturbations. The authors analyze the Last Millennium Ensemble of climate model simulations carried out with the Community Earth System Model at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. The authors examine the duration and strength of volcanic perturbations, and the effects of initial and boundary conditions, such as the phase of the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation. They evaluate the impacts of these factors on decadal-to-multicentennial perturbations of the cryospheric, oceanic, and atmospheric components of the climate system. The authors show that, at least in the Last Millennium Ensemble, volcanic eruptions are followed by a decadal-scale positive response of the Atlantic multidecadal overturning circulation, followed by a centennial-scale enhancement of the Northern Hemispheric sea ice extent. It is hypothesized that a few mechanisms, not just one, may have to play a role in consistently explaining such a simulated climate response at both decadal and centennial time scales. The authors argue that large volcanic forcing is necessary to explain the origin and duration of Little Ice Age-like perturbations in the Last Millennium Ensemble. Other forcings might play a role as well. In particular, prolonged fluctuations in solar irradiance associated with solar minima potentially amplify the enhancement of the magnitude of volcanically triggered anomalies of Arctic sea ice extent.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Atmospheric Science
- Climate variability
- Decadal variability
- Multidecadal variability