University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Quaternary Discussion Group (QDG) > Modelling the Last Glacial-Interglacial Cycle: How sensitive are past climates?

Modelling the Last Glacial-Interglacial Cycle: How sensitive are past climates?

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Understanding the mechanisms involved in Late Quaternary glacial cycles is one of the ultimate challenges for palaeoclimate science. The driving cause of the variability is related to changes in the Earth’s orbit but there are numerous feedbacks between the atmosphere, ocean, ice sheets and carbon cycle. Earth System Modelling can play an important role in quantifying some of these feedbacks and helping us to determine the major components of change. Through a combined modelling and data approach, palaeoclimate studies improve our understanding of key processes and hence contribute to improved confidence in future predictions. However, palaeoclimate studies have also attempted to directly estimate past climate sensitivity to CO2 , a key parameter for future climate change. A key assumption of such work is that climate sensitivity is unchanging, so that knowing climate sensitivity in the past is relevant for climate sensitivity in the future. The talk will describe a series of modelling simulations that help us understand the feedback processes important during the last glacial-interglacial cycle, and show that the model relatively well represents the changes observed in the proxy climate data. We further use the model to investigate climate sensitivity. The simulations show that the sensitivity varies throughout the last 120,000 years, indicating that there are serious limitations on direct estimates of future climate sensitivity from palaeo-data.

This talk is part of the Quaternary Discussion Group (QDG)

This talk is part of the Quaternary Discussion Group (QDG) series.

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