CMIP6/PMIP4 simulations of the mid-Holocene and Last Interglacial using HadGEM3: comparison to the pre-industrial era, previous model versions and proxy data

Palaeoclimate model simulations are an important tool to improve our understanding of the mechanisms of climate change. These simulations also provide tests of the ability of models to simulate climates very different to today. Here we present the results from two brand-new simulations using the latest version of the UK's physical climate model, HadGEM3-GC3.1; they are the mid-Holocene (∼6 ka) and Last Interglacial (∼127 ka) simulations, both conducted under the auspices of CMIP6/PMIP4. This is the first time this version of the UK model has been used to conduct palaeoclimate simulations. These periods are of particular interest to PMIP4 because they represent the two most recent warm periods in Earth history, where atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases and continental configuration are similar to the pre-industrial period but where there were significant changes to the Earth's orbital configuration, resulting in a very different seasonal cycle of radiative forcing. Results for these simulations are assessed firstly against the same model's pre-industrial control simulation (a simulation comparison, to describe and understand the differences between the pre-industrial – PI – and the two palaeo simulations) and secondly against previous versions of the same model relative to newly available proxy data (a model–data comparison, to compare all available simulations from the same model with proxy data to assess any improvements due to model advances). The introduction of this newly available proxy data adds further novelty to this study. Globally, for metrics such as 1.5 m temperature and surface rainfall, whilst both the recent palaeoclimate simulations are mostly capturing the expected sign and, in some places, magnitude of change relative to the pre-industrial, this is geographically and seasonally dependent. Compared to newly available proxy data (including sea surface temperature – SST – and rainfall) and also incorporating data from previous versions of the model shows that the relative accuracy of the simulations appears to vary according to metric, proxy reconstruction used for comparison and geographical location. In some instances, such as mean rainfall in the mid-Holocene, there is a clear and linear improvement, relative to proxy data, from the oldest to the newest generation of the model. When zooming into northern Africa, a region known to be problematic for models in terms of rainfall enhancement, the behaviour of the West African monsoon in both recent palaeoclimate simulations is consistent with current understanding, suggesting a wetter monsoon during the mid-Holocene and (more so) the Last Interglacial, relative to the pre-industrial era. However, regarding the well-documented “Saharan greening” during the mid-Holocene, results here suggest that the most recent version of the UK's physical model is still unable to reproduce the increases suggested by proxy data, consistent with all other previous models to date.


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Authors: Williams, Charles J.R., Guarino, Maria Vittoria ORCIDORCID record for Maria Vittoria Guarino, Capron, Emilie, Malmierca Vallet, Irene ORCIDORCID record for Irene Malmierca Vallet, Singarayer, Joy S., Sime, Louise ORCIDORCID record for Louise Sime, Lunt, Daniel J., Valdes, Paul J.

On this site: Irene Malmierca Vallet, Louise Sime, Maria Vittoria Guarino
6 August, 2020
Climate of the Past / 16
22pp / 1429-1450
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