Evaluating the dominant components of warming in Pliocene climate simulations

Christian.Stepanek [ at ] awi.de


The Pliocene Model Intercomparison Project is the first coordinated climate model comparison for a warmer palaeoclimate with atmospheric CO2 significantly higher than pre-industrial concentrations. The simulations of the mid-Pliocene warm period show global warming of between 1.8 and 3.6 °C above pre-industrial surface air temperatures, with significant polar amplification. Here we perform energy balance calculations on all eight of the coupled ocean–atmosphere simulations within PlioMIP Experiment 2 to evaluate the causes of the increased temperatures and differences between the models. In the tropics simulated warming is dominated by greenhouse gas increases, with cloud albedo feedbacks enhancing the warming in most of the models, but by widely varying amounts. The responses to mid-Pliocene climate forcing in the Northern Hemisphere mid-latitudes are substantially different between the climate models, with the only consistent response being a warming due to increased greenhouse gases. In the high latitudes all the energy balance components become important, but the dominant warming influence comes from the clear sky albedo. This demonstrates the importance of specified ice sheet and high latitude vegetation boundary conditions and simulated sea ice and snow albedo feedbacks. The largest components in the overall uncertainty are associated with cloud albedo feedbacks in the tropics and polar clear sky albedo, particularly in sea ice regions. These simulations show that high latitude albedo feedbacks provide the most significant enhancements to Pliocene greenhouse warming.

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DOI 10.5194/cp-10-79-2014

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Hill, D. J. , Haywood, A. M. , Lunt, D. J. , Hunter, S. J. , Bragg, F. J. , Contoux, C. , Stepanek, C. , Sohl, L. , Rosenbloom, N. A. , Chan, W. L. , Kamae, Y. , Zhang, Z. , Abe-Ouchi, A. , Chandler, M. A. , Jost, A. , Lohmann, G. , Otto-Bliesner, B. L. , Ramstein, G. and Ueda, H. (2014): Evaluating the dominant components of warming in Pliocene climate simulations , Climate of the Past, 10 , pp. 79-90 . doi: 10.5194/cp-10-79-2014

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