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Magnitude of climate variability during middle Pliocene warmth: a palaeoclimate modelling study

Haywood, A.M., Valdes, P.J. and Sellwood, B.W. (2002) Magnitude of climate variability during middle Pliocene warmth: a palaeoclimate modelling study. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 188 (1-2). pp. 1-24.

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/S0031-0182(02)00506-0


The nature and magnitude of climatic variability during the period of middle Pliocene warmth (ca 3.29–2.97 Ma) is poorly understood. We present a suite of palaeoclimate modelling experiments incorporating an advanced atmospheric general circulation model (GCM), coupled to a Q-flux ocean model for 3.29, 3.12 and 2.97 Ma BP. Astronomical solutions for the periods in question were derived from the Berger and Loutre BL2 astronomical solution. Boundary conditions, excluding sea surface temperatures (SSTs) which were predicted by the slab-ocean model, were provided from the USGS PRISM2 2°×2° digital data set. The model results indicate that little annual variation (0.5°C) in SSTs, relative to a ‘control’ experiment, occurred during the middle Pliocene in response to the altered orbital configurations. Annual surface air temperatures also displayed little variation. Seasonally, surface air temperatures displayed a trend of cooler temperatures during December, January and February, and warmer temperatures during June, July and August. This pattern is consistent with altered seasonality resulting from the prescribed orbital configurations. Precipitation changes follow the seasonal trend observed for surface air temperature. Compared to present-day, surface wind strength and wind stress over the North Atlantic, North Pacific and Southern Ocean remained greater in each of the Pliocene experiments. This suggests that wind-driven gyral circulation may have been consistently greater during the middle Pliocene. The trend of climatic variability predicted by the GCM for the middle Pliocene accords with geological data. However, it is unclear if the model correctly simulates the magnitude of the variation. This uncertainty is derived from, (a) the relative insensitivity of the GCM to perturbation in the imposed boundary conditions, (b) a lack of detailed time series data concerning changes to terrestrial ice cover and greenhouse gas concentrations for the middle Pliocene and (c) difficulties in representing the effects of ‘climatic history’ in snap-shot GCM experiments.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science
ID Code:3610
Uncontrolled Keywords:general circulation model; Pliocene; climate variability; climate sensitivity
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