Challenges in quantifying Pliocene terrestrial warming revealed by data–model discord

Ulrich Salzmann, Aisling Dolan, Alan Haywood, Wing-Le Chan, Jochen Voss, Daniel Hill, Ayako Abe-Ouchi, Bette Otto-Bliesner, Frances Bragg, Mark Chandler, Camille Contoux, Harry Dowsett, Anne Jost, Youichi Kamae, Gerrit Lohmann, Daniel Lunt, Steven Pickering, Matthew Pound, Gilles Ramstein, Nan RosenbloomLinda Sohl, Christian Stepanek, Hiroaki Ueda, Zhongshi Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

119 Citations (Scopus)


Comparing simulations of key warm periods in Earth history with contemporaneous geological proxy data is a useful approach for evaluating the ability of climate models to simulate warm, high-CO2 climates that are unprecedented in the more recent past. Here we use a global data set of confidence-assessed, proxy-based temperature estimates and biome reconstructions to assess the ability of eight models to simulate warm terrestrial climates of the Pliocene epoch. The Late Pliocene, 3.6–2.6 million years ago, is an accessible geological interval to understand climate processes of a warmer world. We show that model-predicted surface air temperatures reveal a substantial cold bias in the Northern Hemisphere. Particularly strong data–model mismatches in mean annual temperatures (up to 18 °C) exist in northern Russia. Our model sensitivity tests identify insufficient temporal constraints hampering the accurate configuration of model boundary conditions as an important factor impacting on data–model discrepancies. We conclude that to allow a more robust evaluation of the ability of present climate models to predict warm climates, future Pliocene data–model comparison studies should focus on orbitally defined time slices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)969-974
JournalNature Climate Change
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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