Evaluation of climate models using palaeoclimatic data

Pascale Braconnot*, Sandy P. Harrison, Masa Kageyama, Patrick J. Bartlein, Valerie Masson-Delmotte, Ayako Abe-Ouchi, Bette Otto-Bliesner, Yan Zhao

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    682 Citations (Scopus)


    There is large uncertainty about the magnitude of warming and how rainfall patterns will change in response to any given scenario of future changes in atmospheric composition and land use. The models used for future climate projections were developed and calibrated using climate observations from the past 40 years. The geologic record of environmental responses to climate changes provides a unique opportunity to test model performance outside this limited climate range. Evaluation of model simulations against palaeodata shows that models reproduce the direction and large-scale patterns of past changes in climate, but tend to underestimate the magnitude of regional changes. As part of the effort to reduce model-related uncertainty and produce more reliable estimates of twenty-first century climate, the Palaeoclimate Modelling Intercomparison Project is systematically applying palaeoevaluation techniques to simulations of the past run with the models used to make future projections. This evaluation will provide assessments of model performance, including whether a model is sufficiently sensitive to changes in atmospheric composition, as well as providing estimates of the strength of biosphere and other feedbacks that could amplify the model response to these changes and modify the characteristics of climate variability.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)417-424
    Number of pages8
    JournalNature Climate Change
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012


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