Articles | Volume 10, issue 2
Clim. Past, 10, 451–466, 2014

Special issue: The Past: A Compass for Future Earth – PAGES Young Scientists...

Clim. Past, 10, 451–466, 2014

Research article 11 Mar 2014

Research article | 11 Mar 2014

Uncertainties in the modelled CO2 threshold for Antarctic glaciation

E. Gasson1,2, D. J. Lunt3, R. DeConto2, A. Goldner4, M. Heinemann5, M. Huber4,*, A. N. LeGrande6, D. Pollard7, N. Sagoo3, M. Siddall1, A. Winguth8, and P. J. Valdes3 E. Gasson et al.
  • 1Department of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
  • 2Climate System Research Center, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, USA
  • 3School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
  • 4Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, USA
  • 5International Pacific Research Center, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, USA
  • 6NASA/Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, USA
  • 7Earth and Environmental Systems Institute, Pennsylvania State University, State College, USA
  • 8Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Texas, Arlington, USA
  • *now at: Department of Earth Sciences, University of New Hampshire, Durham, USA

Abstract. A frequently cited atmospheric CO2 threshold for the onset of Antarctic glaciation of ~780 ppmv is based on the study of DeConto and Pollard (2003) using an ice sheet model and the GENESIS climate model. Proxy records suggest that atmospheric CO2 concentrations passed through this threshold across the Eocene–Oligocene transition ~34 Ma. However, atmospheric CO2 concentrations may have been close to this threshold earlier than this transition, which is used by some to suggest the possibility of Antarctic ice sheets during the Eocene. Here we investigate the climate model dependency of the threshold for Antarctic glaciation by performing offline ice sheet model simulations using the climate from 7 different climate models with Eocene boundary conditions (HadCM3L, CCSM3, CESM1.0, GENESIS, FAMOUS, ECHAM5 and GISS_ER). These climate simulations are sourced from a number of independent studies, and as such the boundary conditions, which are poorly constrained during the Eocene, are not identical between simulations. The results of this study suggest that the atmospheric CO2 threshold for Antarctic glaciation is highly dependent on the climate model used and the climate model configuration. A large discrepancy between the climate model and ice sheet model grids for some simulations leads to a strong sensitivity to the lapse rate parameter.