The mid-Piacenzian climate represents the most geologically recent interval of long-term average warmth relative to the last million years, and shares similarities with the climate projected for the end of the 21st century. As such, it represents a natural experiment from which we can gain insight into potential climate change impacts, enabling more informed policy decisions for mitigation and adaptation. Here, we present the first systematic comparison of Pliocene sea surface temperature (SST) between an ensemble of eight climate model simulations produced as part of PlioMIP (Pliocene Model Intercomparison Project) with the PRISM (Pliocene Research, Interpretation and Synoptic Mapping) Project mean annual SST field. Our results highlight key regional and dynamic situations where there is discord between the palaeoenvironmental reconstruction and the climate model simulations. These differences have led to improved strategies for both experimental design and temporal refinement of the palaeoenvironmental reconstruction.