Interannual climate variability seen in the Pliocene Model Intercomparison Project
Abstract. Following reconstructions suggesting weakened temperature gradients along the Equator in the early Pliocene, there has been much speculation about Pliocene climate variability. A major advance for our knowledge about the later Pliocene has been the coordination of modelling efforts through the Pliocene Model Intercomparison Project (PlioMIP). Here the changes in interannual modes of sea surface temperature variability will be presented across PlioMIP. Previously, model ensembles have shown little consensus in the response of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) to imposed forcings – either for the past or future. The PlioMIP ensemble, however, shows surprising agreement, with eight models simulating reduced variability and only one model indicating no change. The Pliocene's robustly weaker ENSO also saw a shift to lower frequencies. Model ensembles focussed on a wide variety of forcing scenarios have not yet shown this level of coherency. Nonetheless, the PlioMIP ensemble does not show a robust response of either ENSO flavour or sea surface temperature variability in the tropical Indian and North Pacific oceans. Existing suggestions linking ENSO properties to to changes in zonal temperature gradient, seasonal cycle and the elevation of the Andes Mountains are investigated, yet prove insufficient to explain the consistent response. The reason for this surprisingly coherent signal warrants further investigation.