PPC Paleoclimate Research

Scientists at NCAR work closely with university colleagues to use model simulations with data in geologic records to understand the causes of past environmental changes. The synergy between simulations and observations provides a unique framework for exploring Earth's climate system. The goal of CCR Paleo is to understand the response of the climate system to different climate forcings and feedbacks. It also addresses the issue of how well CESM simulates climate change. Paleoclimate states can be radically different from those of the recent past documented by the instrumental record, and thus provide an out-of-sample test of the models used for future climate projections and a way to assess whether they have the correct sensitivity to forcings and feedbacks.

CCR Paleo is closely aligned with the CESM Paleoclimate Working Group hosts students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty visitors; and partners on community projects.

Community Projects

The CESM Last Millennium Ensemble Project is a 36-member ensemble of simulations studying climate variability and change for the period 850-2005 under the transient forcings of solar intensity, volcanic eruptions, greenhouse gases, aerosols, land use, and orbital parameters.

The Megadrought Project is a collaborative project with the University of Arizona and Cornell University to explore global drought and megadrought using instrumental and paleoclimatic data and CESM.

The TraCE Project is a collaborative project with the University of Wisconsin and Oregon State University to simulate the transient climate evolution of the last 21,000 years. As a followup, the iTraCE Project will repeat this simulation, now including prediction of water isotopologues, ocean radiocarbon, neodymium, and protactinium/thorium for more direct comparison to records of proxy measures of climate and ocean circulation changes.

The SLICE Project is a collaborative project with Los Alamos National Laboratory and the University of Calgary using CESM-CISM simulations of past warm states and benchmarking against paleo observations as a critical confirmation of CESM-CISM model performance, before using these models to assess the future long-term evolution of the Greenland ice sheet, climate, and sea level.

The DeepPaleoCESM Project, collaborative with university researchers, is funded by the Heising-Simons Foundation to create a version of CESM that is applicable for deep-time paleoclimates.

CCR's Paleo group continues to participate in the international PMIP4 and CMIP6 Intercomparison Projects with CESM simulations for the Last Millennium, mid-Holocene (6000 year ago), Last Glacial Maximum (21,000 years ago), Last Interglacial (127,000 years ago), and the late Pliocene warm period (~3.2 million years ago).