The influence of land cover change in the Asian monsoon region on present-day and mid-Holocene climate
Abstract. Using the general circulation model ECHAM5/JSBACH, we investigate the biogeophysical effect of large-scale afforestation and deforestation in the Asian monsoon domain on present-day and mid-Holocene climate. We demonstrate that the applied land cover change does not only modify the local climate but also change the climate in North Africa and the Middle East via teleconnections. Deforestation in the Asian monsoon domain enhances the rainfall in North Africa. In parts of the Sahara summer precipitation is more than doubled. In contrast, afforestation strongly decreases summer rainfall in the Middle East and even leads to the cessation of the rainfall-activity in some parts of this region.
Regarding the local climate, deforestation results in a reduction of precipitation and a cooler climate as grass mostly has a higher albedo than forests. However, in the core region of the Asian monsoon the decrease in evaporative cooling in the monsoon season overcompensates this signal and results in a net warming. Afforestation has mainly the opposite effect, although the pattern of change is less clear. It leads to more precipitation in most parts of the Asian monsoon domain and a warmer climate except for the southern regions where a stronger evaporation decreases near-surface temperatures in the monsoon season.
When prescribing mid-Holocene insolation, the pattern of local precipitation change differs. Afforestation particularly increases monsoon rainfall in the region along the Yellow River which was the settlement area of major prehistoric cultures. In this region, the effect of land cover change on precipitation is half as large as the orbitally-induced precipitation change. Thus, our model results reveal that mid- to late-Holocene land cover change could strongly have contributed to the decreasing Asian monsoon precipitation during the Holocene known from reconstructions.