Reconstructing and understanding the different climates in Earth’s history allows scientists to put geological records, palaeofauna and -flora, and early human migration in a climatic context, which in turn allows us to understand underlying mechanisms our observations. Climate models, or General Circulation Models (GCM‘s), simulate global climate based on our physical understanding of atmospheric processes. They are primarily used to investigate atmospheric dynamics and contemporary climate change, but have also been applied to improve our understanding of past climates and Earth system dynamics. I use GCM’s primarily to simulate Late Cenozoic climate.

Fig. 1 Example simulation result for Last Glacial Maximum precipitation.

Below are some examples of climate model simulations of temperature and precipitation in the pre-industrial (PI) period, and the simulated anomalies (differences in values) during the Mid-Holocene (MH, ca. 6.5 ka), Last Glacial Maximum (LGM, ca. 21 ka) and Pliocene (PLIO, ca. 3.3 – 3.0 Ma years ago). These are part of the results published in the open-access journal Earth Surface Dynamics. (Click here to read the article).

Fig. 2 Global PI annual mean near-surface temperatures (a), and deviations of MH, LGM and PLIO annual mean near-surface temperatures from PI values (b). Units are °C. (Mutz et al. 2018)


Fig. 3 Global PI annualprecipitation (a), and deviations of MH, LGM and PLIO annual mean precipitation from PI values (b). Units are mm/a (Mutz et al. 2018).