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Philos Trans A Math Phys Eng Sci. 2013 Sep 16;371(2001):20130123. doi: 10.1098/rsta.2013.0123. Print 2013 Oct 28.

The Early Eocene equable climate problem: can perturbations of climate model parameters identify possible solutions?

Author information

1
School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, , University Road, Bristol BS8 1SS, UK.

Abstract

Geological data for the Early Eocene (56-47.8 Ma) indicate extensive global warming, with very warm temperatures at both poles. However, despite numerous attempts to simulate this warmth, there are remarkable data-model differences in the prediction of these polar surface temperatures, resulting in the so-called 'equable climate problem'. In this paper, for the first time an ensemble with a perturbed climate-sensitive model parameters approach has been applied to modelling the Early Eocene climate. We performed more than 100 simulations with perturbed physics parameters, and identified two simulations that have an optimal fit with the proxy data. We have simulated the warmth of the Early Eocene at 560 ppmv CO2, which is a much lower CO2 level than many other models. We investigate the changes in atmospheric circulation, cloud properties and ocean circulation that are common to these simulations and how they differ from the remaining simulations in order to understand what mechanisms contribute to the polar warming. The parameter set from one of the optimal Early Eocene simulations also produces a favourable fit for the last glacial maximum boundary climate and outperforms the control parameter set for the present day. Although this does not 'prove' that this model is correct, it is very encouraging that there is a parameter set that creates a climate model able to simulate well very different palaeoclimates and the present-day climate. Interestingly, to achieve the great warmth of the Early Eocene this version of the model does not have a strong future climate change Charney climate sensitivity. It produces a Charney climate sensitivity of 2.7(°)C, whereas the mean value of the 18 models in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) is 3.26(°)C±0.69(°)C. Thus, this value is within the range and below the mean of the models included in the AR4.

KEYWORDS:

Eocene; Eocene model; data/model; equable; perturbed physics ensemble

PMID:
24043872
DOI:
10.1098/rsta.2013.0123

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