20 Oct 2021

20 Oct 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal CP.

Warm mid-Pliocene conditions without high climate sensitivity: the CCSM4-Utrecht (CESM 1.0.5) contribution to the PlioMIP2

Michiel L. J. Baatsen1, Anna S. von der Heydt1,2, Michael A. Kliphuis1, Arthur M. Oldeman1, and Julia E. Weiffenbach1 Michiel L. J. Baatsen et al.
  • 1Institute for Marine and Atmospheric research Utrecht (IMAU), Department of Physics, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands
  • 2Centre for Complex Systems Science, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands

Abstract. We present the Utrecht contribution to the Pliocene Model Intercomparison Project Phase 2 (PlioMIP2), using the Community Earth System Model version 1.0.5 (CCSM4-Utr). Using a standard pre-industrial configuration and the enhanced PlioMIP2 set of boundary conditions, we perform a set of simulations at various levels of atmospheric pCO2. This allows us to make an assessment of the mid-Pliocene reference (Eoi400) climate versus available proxy records and a pre-industrial control (E280), as well as to determine the sensitivity to different external forcing mechanisms.

We find that our simulated Pliocene climate is considerably warmer than the pre-industrial reference, even under the same levels of atmospheric pCO2. Compared to the E280 case, the simulated climate of our Eoi400 is on average almost 5 °C warmer at the surface. Our Eoi400 case is among the warmest within the PlioMIP2 ensemble and only comparable to the results of models with a much higher climate sensitivity (i.e. CESM2, EC-Earth3.3, and HadGEM3). This is accompanied by a considerable polar amplification factor, increased precipitation and greatly reduced sea ice cover. A primary contribution to this enhanced Pliocene warmth is likely our warm model initialisation followed by a long spin-up, as opposed to starting from pre-industrial or present-day conditions. Added warmth in the deep ocean is partly the result of using an altered vertical mixing parametrisation in the Pliocene simulations, but this has a negligible effect at the surface. We find a stronger and deeper Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) in the Eoi400 case, but the associated meridional heat transport is mostly unaffected. In addition to the mean state, we find significant shifts in the behaviour of the dominant modes of variability at annual to decadal timescales. The Eoi400 ENSO amplitude is greatly reduced (−68 %) versus the E280 one, while the AMOC becomes more variable. There is also a strong coupling between AMOC strength and North Atlantic SST variability in the Eoi400, while North Pacific SST anomalies seem to have a reduced global influence with respect to the E280 through the weakened ENSO

Michiel L. J. Baatsen et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on cp-2021-140', Dan Lunt, 19 Nov 2021
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Michiel Baatsen, 06 Jan 2022
  • RC2: 'Comment on cp-2021-140', Anonymous Referee #2, 30 Nov 2021
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC2', Michiel Baatsen, 06 Jan 2022

Michiel L. J. Baatsen et al.

Michiel L. J. Baatsen et al.


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Short summary
The Pliocene is a period during which atmospheric CO2 was similar to today (i.e. ~400 ppm). We present the results of model simulations carried out within the Pliocene Model Intercomparison Project Phase 2 (PlioMIP2), using the CESM 1.0.5. We find a climate that is much warmer than today (5 °C above 1850 conditions), with augmented polar warming, increased precipitation and strongly reduced sea ice cover. In addition, several leading modes of variability in temperature show an altered behaviour.