Low terrestrial carbon storage at the Last Glacial Maximum: constraints from multi-proxy data

Jeltsch-Thömmes, Aurich; Battaglia, Gianna; Cartapanis, Olivier; Jaccard, Samuel; Joos, Fortunat (2019). Low terrestrial carbon storage at the Last Glacial Maximum: constraints from multi-proxy data. Climate of the past, 15(2), pp. 849-879. Copernicus Publications 10.5194/cp-15-849-2019

jeltschthömmes19cp_cp-15-849-2019-1.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons: Attribution (CC-BY).

Download (7MB) | Preview

Past changes in the inventory of carbon stored in vegetation and soils remain uncertain. Earlier studies inferred the increase in the land carbon inventory (Δland) between the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) and the preindustrial period (PI) based on marine and atmospheric stable carbon isotope reconstructions, with recent estimates yielding 300–400 GtC. Surprisingly, however, earlier studies considered a mass balance for the ocean–atmosphere–land biosphere system only. Notably, these studies neglect carbon exchange with marine sediments, weathering–burial flux imbalances, and the influence of the transient deglacial reorganization on the isotopic budgets. We show this simplification to significantly reduce Δland in simulations using the Bern3D Earth System Model of Intermediate Complexity v.2.0s. We constrain Δland to ∼850 GtC (median estimate; 450 to 1250 GtC ±1SD) by using reconstructed changes in atmospheric δ13C, marine δ13C, deep Pacific carbonate ion concentration, and atmospheric CO2 as observational targets in a Monte Carlo ensemble with half a million members. It is highly unlikely that the land carbon inventory was larger at LGM than PI. Sensitivities of the target variables to changes in individual deglacial carbon cycle processes are established from transient factorial simulations with the Bern3D model. These are used in the Monte Carlo ensemble and provide forcing–response relationships for future model–model and model–data comparisons. Our study demonstrates the importance of ocean–sediment interactions and burial as well as weathering fluxes involving marine organic matter to explain deglacial change and suggests a major upward revision of earlier isotope-based estimates of Δland.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute > Climate and Environmental Physics
10 Strategic Research Centers > Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR)
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geological Sciences
08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute

UniBE Contributor:

Jeltsch-Thömmes, Aurich Tuure Don; Battaglia, Gianna; Jaccard, Samuel and Joos, Fortunat


500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology
500 Science > 530 Physics




Copernicus Publications




Fortunat Joos

Date Deposited:

25 Nov 2019 11:15

Last Modified:

02 Sep 2020 08:22

Publisher DOI:






Actions (login required)

Edit item Edit item
Provide Feedback