Clim. Past Discuss., 9, 1449-1483, 2013
© Author(s) 2013. This work is distributed
under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
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This discussion paper has been under review for the journal Climate of the Past (CP). Please refer to the corresponding final paper in CP.
A comparative study of large scale atmospheric circulation in the context of future scenario (RCP4.5) and past warmth (Mid Pliocene)
Y. Sun1,2,3, G. Ramstein3, C. Contoux3,4, and T. Zhou1,5
1LASG, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
2University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
3Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement/IPSL, UMR8212, CEA-CNRS-UVSQ, Gif-sur-Yvette, France
4Université Pierre et Marie Curie & CNRS, Sisyphe, Paris, France
5Climate Change Research Center, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China

Abstract. The Pliocene climate (3.3 ~ 3.0 Ma) is often considered as the last sustained warm period with close enough geographic configurations compared to the present one and associated with atmospheric CO2 concentration (405 ± 50 ppm) higher than the modern level. It is therefore suggested that the warm Pliocene climate may provide a plausible scenario for the future climate warming with the important advantage, that for mid-Pliocene, many marine and continental data are available. To investigate this issue, we selected RCP4.5 scenario, one of the current available future projections, to compare the pattern of tropical atmospheric response with past warm mid-Pliocene climate.

We performed three OAGCM simulations (RCP4.5 scenario, mid-Pliocene and present day simulation) with the IPSL-CM5A model and investigated atmospheric tropical dynamics through Hadley and Walker cell responses to warmer conditions. Our results show that there is a damping of the Hadley cell intensity in the northern tropics and an increase in both subtropics. Moreover, northern and southern Hadley cells expand poleward. The response of Hadley cell is stronger for RCP4.5 scenario than for mid-Pliocene, but in very good agreement with the fact the atmospheric CO2 concentration is higher in future scenario than mid-Pliocene (543 versus 405 ppm). Concerning the response of the Walker cell, we showed that, despite very large similarities, there are also some differences. i.e. the common features are for both scenarios: weakening of the ascending branch, leading to a suppression of the precipitation over the western tropical Pacific. The response of Walker cell is stronger in RCP4.5 scenario than mid-Pliocene but also depicts some major difference as an eastward shift of the rising branch of Walker cell in future scenario compared to the mid-Pliocene.

In this paper, we explain the dynamics of the Hadley and Walker cell, and show that despite minor discrepancy, mid-Pliocene is certainly an interesting analogue for future climate changes in the tropical areas.

Citation: Sun, Y., Ramstein, G., Contoux, C., and Zhou, T.: A comparative study of large scale atmospheric circulation in the context of future scenario (RCP4.5) and past warmth (Mid Pliocene), Clim. Past Discuss., 9, 1449-1483, doi:10.5194/cpd-9-1449-2013, 2013.
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