journal article

Dansgaard–Oeschger events in climate models: review and baseline Marine Isotope Stage 3 (MIS3) protocol


Dansgaard–Oeschger (D–O) events, millennial-scale climate oscillations between stadial and interstadial conditions (of up to 10–15 ∘C in amplitude at high northern latitudes), occurred throughout the Marine Isotope Stage 3 (MIS3; 27.8–59.4 ka) period. The climate modelling community up to now has not been able to answer the question of whether our climate models are too stable to simulate D–O events. To address this, this paper lays the ground-work for a MIS3 D–O protocol for general circulation models which are used in the International Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) assessments. We review the following: D–O terminology, community progress on simulating D–O events in these IPCC-class models (processes and published examples), and evidence about the boundary conditions under which D–O events occur. We find that no model exhibits D–O-like behaviour under pre-industrial conditions. Some, but not all, models exhibit D–O-like oscillations under MIS3 and/or full glacial conditions. Greenhouse gases and ice sheet configurations are crucial. However most models have not run simulations of long enough duration to be sure which models show D–O-like behaviour, under either MIS3 or full glacial states. We propose a MIS3 baseline protocol at 34 ka, which features low obliquity values, medium to low MIS3 greenhouse gas values, and the intermediate ice sheet configuration, which our review suggests are most conducive to D–O-like behaviour in models. We also provide a protocol for a second freshwater (Heinrich-event-preconditioned) experiment, since previous work suggests that this variant may be helpful in preconditioning a state in models which is conducive to D–O events. This review provides modelling groups investigating MIS3 D–O oscillations with a common framework, which is aimed at (1) maximising the chance of the occurrence of D–O-like events in the simulations, (2) allowing more precise model–data evaluation, and (3) providing an adequate central point for modellers to explore model stability.
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