eCite Digital Repository

Low atmospheric CO2 levels during the Little Ice Age due to cooling-induced terrestrial uptake


Rubino, M and Etheridge, DM and Trudinger, CM and Allison, CE and Rayner, PJ and Enting, I and Mulvaney, R and Steele, LP and Langenfelds, RL and Sturges, WT and Curran, MAJ and Smith, AM, Low atmospheric CO2 levels during the Little Ice Age due to cooling-induced terrestrial uptake, Nature Geoscience, 9, (9) pp. 691-694. ISSN 1752-0894 (2016) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2016 Macmillan Publishers Limited, part of Springer Nature

DOI: doi:10.1038/NGEO2769


Low atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration during the Little Ice Age has been used to derive the global carbon cycle sensitivity to temperature. Recent evidence confirms earlier indications that the low CO2 was caused by increased terrestrial carbon storage. It remains unknown whether the terrestrial biosphere responded to temperature variations, or there was vegetation re-growth on abandoned farmland. Here we present a global numerical simulation of atmospheric carbonyl sulfide concentrations in the pre-industrial period. Carbonyl sulfide concentration is linked to changes in gross primary production and shows a positive anomaly during the Little Ice Age. We show that a decrease in gross primary production and a larger decrease in ecosystem respiration is the most likely explanation for the decrease in atmospheric CO2 and increase in atmospheric carbonyl sulfide concentrations. Therefore, temperature change, not vegetation re-growth, was the main cause of the increased terrestrial carbon storage. We address the inconsistency between ice-core CO2 records from different sites measuring CO2 and δ13CO2 in ice from Dronning Maud Land (Antarctica). Our interpretation allows us to derive the temperature sensitivity of pre-industrial CO2 fluxes for the terrestrial biosphere (γL = −10 to −90 Pg  C K−1), implying a positive climate feedback and providing a benchmark to reduce model uncertainties.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:carbon cycle, paleoclimate, CO2
Research Division:Earth Sciences
Research Group:Climate change science
Research Field:Climate change processes
Objective Division:Environmental Policy, Climate Change and Natural Hazards
Objective Group:Understanding climate change
Objective Field:Climate change models
UTAS Author:Curran, MAJ (Dr Mark Curran)
ID Code:114870
Year Published:2016
Web of Science® Times Cited:22
Deposited By:CRC-Antarctic Climate & Ecosystems
Deposited On:2017-03-01
Last Modified:2017-10-30

Repository Staff Only: item control page