Climate Dynamics

, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 19–36 | Cite as

Modelling mid-Holocene tropical climate and ENSO variability: towards constraining predictions of future change with palaeo-data

  • Josephine BrownEmail author
  • Matthew Collins
  • Alexander W. Tudhope
  • Thomas Toniazzo


Palaeoclimate simulations provide an opportunity for climate model evaluation as well as having a potential role in assigning relative likelihood to different ensemble members in probabilistic climate change prediction, supplementing constraints provided by the instrumental record. Here we take some initial steps towards such an approach by performing ensemble experiments with the Hadley Centre HadCM3 model under pre-industrial and mid-Holocene (6,000 years before present) forcing conditions. We examine the changes in both mean tropical climate and El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) variability, as palaeoclimate records suggest that ENSO amplitude was reduced in the mid-Holocene. Experiments are performed with perturbations to physical parameters in the atmosphere–surface component of the model, and with different implementations of heat and freshwater flux adjustments. Heat flux adjustments are required to stabilise model versions in which perturbations cause a net radiative imbalance. While we find broad agreement between different model versions in terms of changes in mean climate in the mid-Holocene, a detailed and quantitative comparison with the geographically-sparse palaeo-record is limited by systematic model biases. In the simulations without seasonally-varying flux adjustments there are modest reductions in ENSO amplitude of the order of 10–15%, lower than the range of reductions inferred from coral proxy records. We examine the mechanisms for these changes, and discuss the implications for the design of future ensemble experiments to formally quantify uncertainty in climate change predictions using palaeoclimate simulations.


South Pacific Convergence Zone Zonal Wind Stress Western Pacific Warm Pool Flux Adjustment ENSO Amplitude 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank Paul Valdes for assistance with the model set-up for the mid-Holocene simulations. Andy Turner, Hilary Spencer, Matthieu Lengaigne and Eric Guilyardi contributed useful comments on aspects of this work. The comments of four anonymous reviewers also greatly improved this manuscript. This study was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council RAPID programme.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Josephine Brown
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Matthew Collins
    • 3
  • Alexander W. Tudhope
    • 4
  • Thomas Toniazzo
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Geography and Environmental ScienceMonash UniversityClaytonAustralia
  2. 2.Department of MeteorologyUniversity of ReadingReadingUK
  3. 3.Hadley CentreMet OfficeExeterUK
  4. 4.School of GeosciencesUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghUK

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