Climate Research and Development

Deep Time Data-Model Synergy

Maps showing primary elements of the PRISM4 reconstruction: (A) Sea Surface Temperature; (B) Paleogeography; (C) Land Surface BIOMES; (D) Soils; (E) Ice distribution and (F) Lake distribution.
Maps showing primary elements of the PRISM4 reconstruction: (A) Sea Surface Temperature; (B) Paleogeography; (C) Land Surface BIOMES; (D) Soils; (E) Ice distribution and (F) Lake distribution.

This project investigates the paleoceanographic and paleoclimatic history of the Earth, focusing on regional climate dynamics with emphasis on processes, and multiple environmental proxies, during a short time interval within the Pliocene. In addition, we coordinate the continued refinement of the Pliocene Research, Interpretation and Synoptic Mapping (PRISM4) climate reconstruction through generation of improved data sets used by climate models to initialize and verify simulations.

The PRISM4 climate reconstruction is a high-resolution, multi-faceted description of the mid-Pliocene, which is the most recent warm period similar to what is expected in the coming century. The reconstruction has been used to ground-truth model simulations of mid-Pliocene climate and evaluate model capabilities to simulate climate conditions much different than today. PRISM4 is the most detailed global reconstruction of climate and environmental conditions older than the last glacial maximum (18-21 ka). It includes a deep ocean temperature reconstruction, refined sea surface temperature estimates, updated biome reconstruction, new soils and lakes data sets, new paleogeography (topography and bathymetry), and land ice and sea ice data sets. PRISM4 researchers collaborate with multiple modeling groups through the Pliocene Model Intercomparison Project (PlioMIP) to explore Pliocene climate and improve our understanding of the climate system and possible future climate conditions.

Why is this research important?

Over the course of geologic history, global temperatures have changed in response to a multitude of climate forcings. Estimates of global warming during the mid-Piacenzian Age of the Pliocene Epoch (3.264 - 3.025 Ma) suggest that temperatures were up to 2°C (~4.5°F) greater than today. This level of warming is within the range of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates of global temperature increases for the 21st century. No other time period in the past three million years approaches this level of warming. Although, scientists have identified the primary forcing mechanisms that contribute to global warming, there is uncertainty about the relative impact of each forcing and associated feedbacks. Reconstructions of sea surface temperatures and other paleoenvironmental parameters provide a synoptic view of the Earth during an interval considerably warmer than modern, enhancing abilities to model the response of the Earth system to episodes of warming.

Project Lead:
Harry Dowsett
Project Team:
Marci Robinson, Kevin Foley, Tim Herbert, Ulrich Salzmann, Alan Haywood, Aisling Dolan, Stephen Hunter, Rocio Caballero-Gill, Alana Lorish
Project Website
Related Projects:
   Palaeo@Leeds
   PlioMIP2
   PMIP3

29 publications matching the specified parameters were found.

Dowsett, H.J., 2017, Palaeoclimate: Aerosols shift lake ecosystem, Nature Climate Change, v. 7, p.174-175.
Available at: https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate3230

Lord, N. S., Crucifix, M., Lunt, D. J., Thorne, M. C., Bounceur, N., Dowsett, H., O'Brien, C. L., and Ridgwell, A., 2017, Emulation of long-term changes in global climate: Application to the late Pliocene and future, Climate of the Past Discussions.
Available at: https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-2017-57

Haywood, A. M., Dowsett, H. J., Dolan, A. M., Rowley, D., Abe-Ouchi, A., Otto-Bliesner, B., Chandler, M. A., Hunter, S. J., Lunt, D. J., Pound, M., and Salzmann, U.: The Pliocene Model Intercomparison Project (PlioMIP) Phase 2: scientific objectives and experimental design: Climates of the Past, v. 12, p. 663-675.
Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.5194/cp-12-663-2016

Dolan, A., Haywood, A., Hunter, S.J., Tindall, J., Dowsett, H.J., and Pickering, S.J., 2015, Modeling the enigmatic Late Pliocence glacial event - Marine Isotope Stage M2: Earth and Planetary Science Letters, p. 1-30.
Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10:1016/j.gloplacha.2015.02.001

Dowsett, H., Robinson, M., and Foley, K., 2015, A global planktic foraminifer data set for the Pliocence ocean: Scientific Data, v. 2, p. 150076.
Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/sdata.2015.76

Howell, F.W., Haywood, A.M., Dolan, A.M., Dowsett, H.J., Francis, J.E., Hill, D.J., Pickering, S.J., Pope, J.O., Salzmann, U., and Wade, B.S., 2014, Can uncertainties in sea ice albedo reconcile patterns of data-model discord for the Pliocene and 20th/21st centuries?: Geophysical Research Letters, v. 41, no. 6, p. 2011-2018.

Pound, M., Tindall, J., Pickering, S., Haywood, A., Dowsett, H., and Salzmann, U., 2014, Late Pliocene lakes and soils: a global data set for the analysis of climate feedbacks in a warmer world: Climate of the Past, v. 10, no. 1, p. 167-180.

Prescott, C.L., Haywood, A.M., Dolan, A.M., Hunter, S.J., Pope, J.O., and Pickering, S.J., 2014, Assessing orbitally-forced interglacial climate variability during the mid-Pliocene Warm Period: Earth and Planetary Science Letters, v. 400, p. 261-271.

Saupe, E., Hendricks, J., Portell, R., Dowsett, H., Haywood, A., Hunter, S., and Lieberman, B., 2014, Macroevolutionary consequences of profound climate change on niche evolution in marine molluscs over the past three million years: Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, v. 281, no. 1795, p. 20141995.

Chandler, M.A., Sohl, L.E., Jonas, J.A., Dowsett, H.J., Kelley, M., 2013, Simulations of the mid-Pliocene Warm Period using two versions of the NASA/GISS ModelE2-R Coupled Model, Geoscientific Model Development, v. 6, p. 517-531.
Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.5194/gmd-6-517-2013

Dowsett H.J., and Robinson M.M., 2013, Planktic Foraminifera, in Elias S.A., ed., The Encyclopedia of Quaternary Science: Amsterdam, Elsevier, v. 2, p. 825-829.

Dowsett, H.J., Foley, K.M., Stoll, D.K., Chandler, M.A., Sohl, L.E., Bentsen, M., Otto-Bliesner, B.L., Bragg, F.J., Chan, W.L., Contoux, C., Dolan, A.M., Haywood, A.M., Jonas, J.A., Jost, A., Kamae, Y., Lohmann, G., Lunt, D.J., Nisancioglu, K.H., Abe-Ouchi, A., Ramstein, G., Riesselman, C.R., Robinson, M.M., Rosenbloom, N.A., Salzmann, U., Stepanek, C., Strother, S.L., Ueda, H., Yan, Q., and Zhang, Z., 2013, Sea surface temperature of the mid-Piacenzian ocean: a data-model comparison: Scientific Reports, v. 3.

Dowsett, H.J., Robinson, M.M., Stoll, D.K., Foley, K.M., Johnson, A.L., Williams, M., and Riesselman, C.R., 2013, The PRISM (Pliocene palaeoclimate) reconstruction: time for a paradigm shift: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, v. 371, no. 2001, p. 20120524.

Haywood, A.M., Dolan, A.M., Pickering, S.J., Dowsett, H.J., McClymont, E.L., Prescott, C.L., Salzmann, U., Hill, D.J., Lunt, D.J., Pope, J.O., Valdes, P.J., 2013, On the identification of a Pliocene time slice for data-model comparison: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, v. 371, no. 2001, 20120515.
Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsta.2012.0515

Haywood, A.M., Hill, D.J., Dolan, A.M., Otto-Bliesner, B.L., Bragg, F., Chan, W.-L., Chandler, M.A., Contoux, C., Dowsett, H.J., Jost, A., Kamae, Y., Lohmann, G., Lunt, D.J., Abe-Ouchi, A., Pickering, S.J., Ramstein, G., Rosenbloom, N.A., Salzmann, U., Sohl, L., Stepanek, C., Ueda, H., Yan, Q., Zhang, Z., 2013, Large-scale features of Pliocene climate: results from the Pliocene Model Intercomparison Project: Climates of the Past, v. 9, 191-209.
Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.5194/cp-9-191-2013

Salzmann, U., Dolan, A.M., Haywood, A.M., Chan, W.-L., Voss, J., Hill, D.J., Abe-Ouchi, A., Otto-Bliesner, B., Bragg, F.J., Chandler, M.A., Contoux, C., Dowsett, H.J., Jost, A., Kamae, Y., Lohmann, G., Lunt, D.J., Pickering, S.J., Pound, M.J., Ramstein, G., Rosenbloom, N.A., Sohl, L., Stepanek, C., Ueda, H., and Zhang, Z., 2013, Challenges in quantifying Pliocene terrestrial warming revealed by data-model discord: Nature Climate Change, v. 3, no. 11, p. 969-974.

Dolan, A.M., Haywood, A.M., and Dowsett, H.J., 2012, Climate model simulations of the mid-Pliocene: Earth's last great interval of global warmth: EOS, Trans. AGU, v. 93, no. 2, p. 18.
Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1029/2012EO020002

Dowsett, H.J., Robinson, M.M., Haywood, A.M., Hill, D.J., Dolan, A.M., Stoll, D.K., Chan, W.-L., Abe-Ouchi, A., Chandler, M.A., Rosenbloom, N.A., Otto-Bliesner, B.L., Bragg, F.J., Lunt, D.J., Foley, K.M., and Riesselman, C.R., 2012, Assessing confidence in Pliocene sea surface temperatures to evaluate predictive models: Nature Climate Change, v. 2, p. 365-371.
Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/NCLIMATE1455

Lunt, D.J., Haywood, A.M., Schmidt, G.A., Salzmann, U., Valdes, P.J., Dowsett, H.J., and Loptson, C.A., 2012, On the causes of mid-Pliocene warmth and polar amplification: Earth and Planetary Science Letters, v. 321-322, p. 128-138.
Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.epsl.2011.12.042

McKay, R., Naish, T., Carter, L., Riesselman,C., Sjunneskog, C., Winter, D., Dunbar, R., Sangiorgi, F., Warren, C., Pagani, M., Schouten, S., Willmott, V., Levy, R., DeConto, R., and Powell, R., 2012, Antarctic and Southern Ocean influences in global Late Pliocene cooling: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, v. 109, no. 17, p. 6423-6428.
Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1112248109

Yasuhara, M., Hunt, G., Dowsett, H.J., Robinson, M.M., and Stoll, D.K., 2012, Latitudinal species diversity gradient of marine zooplankton for the last three million years: Ecology Letters, v. 15, no. 10, p. 1174-1179.
Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1461-0248.2012.01828.x

Dolan, A.M., Haywood, A.M., Hill, D.J., Dowsett, H.J., Hunter, S.J., Lunt, D.J., and Pickering, S.J., 2011, Sensitivity of Pliocene ice sheets to orbital forcing: Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, v. 309, no. 1, p. 98-110.

Dowsett, H.J., Haywood, A.M., Valdes, P.J., Robinson, M.M., Lunt, D.J., Hill, D.J., Stoll, D.K., and Foley, K.M., 2011, Sea surface temperatures of the mid-Piacenzian Warm Period: A comparison of PRISM3 and HadCM3: Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, v. 309, no. 1, p. 83-91.

Haywood, A.M., Dowsett, H.J., Robinson, M.M., Stoll, D.K., Dolan, A.M., Lunt, D.J., Otto-Bliesner, B., and Chandler, M.A., 2011, Pliocene Model Intercomparison Project (PlioMIP): experimental design and boundary conditions (experiment 2): Geoscientific Model Development, v. 4, p. 571-577.

Haywood, A.M., Ridgwell, A., Lunt, D.J., Hill, D.J., Pound, M.J., Dowsett, H.J., Dolan, A.M., Francis, J.E., and Williams, M., 2011, Are there pre-Quaternary geological analogues for a future greenhouse warming?: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, v. 369, no. 1938, p. 933-956.

Lutz, B.P., 2011, Shifts in North Atlantic planktic foraminifer biogeography and subtropical gyre circulation during the mid-Piacenzian warm period: Marine Micropaleontology, v. 80, no. 3, p. 125-149.

Pope, J.O., Collins, M., Haywood, A.M., Dowsett, H.J., Hunter, S.J., Lunt, D.J., Pickering, S.J., and Pound, M.J., 2011, Quantifying uncertainty in model predictions for the Pliocene (Plio-QUMP): initial results: Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, v. 309, no. 1, p. 128-140.

Robinson, M., 2011, Pliocene climate lessons: An ongoing reconstruction of a warmer Earth 3 million years ago helps test climate-change forecasts: Am. Sci., v. 99, p. 228-235.

Robinson, M.M., Valdes, P.J., Haywood, A.M., Dowsett, H.J., Hill, D.J., and Jones, S.M., 2011, Bathymetric controls on Pliocene North Atlantic and Arctic sea surface temperature and deepwater production: Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, v. 309, no. 1, p. 92-97.

PRISM3D: Global Warming Analysis

The PRISM3D reconstruction is a high-resolution, multi-faceted description of the mid Pliocene, which is the most recent warm period similar to what is expected in the coming century. The reconstruction has been used to ground-truth model simulations of mid-Pliocene climate and evaluate model capabilities to simulate climate conditions much different than today. PRISM3D is the most detailed global reconstruction of climate and environmental conditions older than the last glacial maximum (18-21 ka). It includes a new deep ocean temperature reconstruction, an expanded and refined sea surface temperature field, and revised and updated vegetation, topography, land ice and sea ice data sets. PRISM researchers collaborate with multiple modeling groups to explore Pliocene climate and improve our understanding of the climate system and possible future climate conditions. Future research will focus on regional climate dynamics with emphasis on processes, multiple environmental proxies, and a shorter time interval within the mid Pliocene.

Why is this research important?

Over the course of geologic history, global temperatures have changed in response to a multitude of climate forcings. Estimates of global warming during the mid-Piacenzian Age of the Pliocene Epoch (3.264 - 3.025 Ma) suggest that temperatures were up to 2°C greater than today. This level of warming is within the range of IPCC estimates of global temperature increases for the 21st century, and no other time period in the past three million years approaches this level of warming. Although scientists have identified the primary forcing mechanisms that contribute to global warming, there is uncertainty about the relative impact of each forcing and associated feedbacks. Reconstructions of SST and other paleoenvironmental parameters provide a synoptic view of the Earth during an interval considerably warmer than modern, enhancing abilities to model the response of the Earth system to episodes of warming.