Climate of the Past

-

The challenge of simulating warmth of the mid-Miocene Climate Optimum in CESM1
Climate of the Past

The mid-Miocene Climatic Optimum (MMCO) is an intriguing climatic period due to its above-modern temperatures in mid-to-high latitudes in the presence of close-to-modern CO2 concentrations. We use the recently released Community Earth System Model (CESM1.0) with a slab ocean to simulate this warm period, incorporating recent Miocene CO2 reconstructions of 400 ppm. We simulate a global mean annual temperature (MAT) of 18 °C, ~4 °C above the pre-industrial value, but 4 °C colder than the global Miocene MAT we calculate from climate proxies. Sensitivity tests reveal that the inclusion of a reduced Antarctic ice sheet, eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean temperature anomalies, increased CO2 to 560 ppm, and variations in obliquity only marginally improve model-data agreement. All MMCO simulations have an equator to pole temperature gradient which is at least ~ 10 °C larger than the reconstruction from proxies. The MMCO simulation most comparable to the proxy records requires a CO2 concentration of 800 ppm. Our results illustrate that MMCO warmth is not reproducible using the CESM1.0 forced with CO2 concentrations reconstructed for the Miocene or including various proposed Earth system feedbacks; the remaining discrepancy in the MAT is comparable to that introduced by a CO2 doubling. The models tendency to underestimate proxy derived global MAT and overestimate the equator to pole temperature gradient suggests a major climate problem in the MMCO akin to those in the Eocene. Our results imply that this latest model, as with previous generations of climate models, is either not sensitive enough or additional forcings remain missing that explain half of the anomalous warmth and pronounced polar amplification of the MMCO.

Il y a quelques années les sceptiques critiquaient la justesse des modèles climatiques, on les faisait taire en disant « la science a parlé et le débat est clos« . Aujourd’hui, on apprend que finalement, ce sont les sceptiques qui avaient raison et que les niveaux de CO2 n’expliquent pas le climat à eux seuls !