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Modelling the evolution of climate and sea level over the third millennium

Dutch title: Modellering van het klimaat en het zeeniveau gedurende het derde millennium (MILMO)
Parent project: Research action SPSD-II: Second scientific support plan for a sustainable development policy, more
Reference no: EV/09
Acronym: MILMO
Period: December 2000 till February 2005
Status: Completed

Thesaurus terms: Carbon dioxide; Climate; Greenhouse effect; Ice caps; Modelling
 Institutes | Publications 

Institutes (4)  Top | Publications 
  • Université Catholique de Louvain; Earth and Life Institute; Centre de recherche sur la Terre et le Climat Georges Lemaître (TECLIM), more
  • Vrije Universiteit Brussel; Centrum voor Cartografie en GIS (CCG)
    • Decleir, Hugo
    • Huybrechts, Philippe
  • Université de Liège; Faculté des Sciences; Département d'Astrophysique, Géophysique et Océanographie; Laboratoire de physique atmosphérique et planétaire (LPAP), more
  • Belgian Science Policy (BELSPO), more, sponsor

The overall objective of this research proposal is to improve projections of global and European climate and sea-level changes for the twenty-first century and to profoundly investigate processes and dynamic feedbacks in the climate system as well as the likelihood of abrupt climate change during the third millennium. The approach is to implement and use an efficient three-dimensional atmosphere-vegetation-sea-ice-cean model coupled with a model of the oceanic carbon cycle and improved thermomechanical models of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. We will also implement a global algorithm for calculating the melt from glaciers and small ice caps and a scheme for deriving thermal expansion from the ocean model to be able to assess all major contributors to global sea-level changes.

The project will bring together the expertise of three Belgian teams which have excellence in ocean and atmosphere modelling (ASTR-UCL at the Université Catholique de Louvain), global carbon-cycle modelling (ULg-LPAP at the Université de Liège), and modelling of the continental cryosphere (VUB-DGGF at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel). The work of these teams is well embedded in international research programmes or networks. We will build a community model that will be accessible by all of the three teams on a single computer environment to perform numerical simulations of the climate system during the third millennium.

The atmospheric component of our model has the big advantage that it has been simplified to a level that makes many runs on a multiple-century timescale computationally feasible, while at the same time producing results which, on the whole, are comparable to those of comprehensive general circulation models. That distinguishes our work from other studies that are often limited to one or two scenarios over a few decades. Preparatory work prior to the coupling of the three subcomponents of our global model will entail improvements in the physics, parameterisations, and datasets according to the latest developments in the respective fields, and to the development of efficient interfaces to exchange information between all the components. Most importantly, we will reduce and hopefully eliminate freshwater-flux corrections in the atmosphere-vegetation-sea-ice-ocean model, refine parameterisations and numerical schemes in the marine carbon-cycle model, and quadruple the resolution of the ice-sheet models to better represent the flow at the ice-sheet margin. Improvements to the global glacier-melt algorithm will include the incorporation of changing glacier area and dynamic adjustment to new climatic conditions.

With the coupled model, we will study climate and sea-level changes for the periods 1750-2000 and 2000-2100 with ensemble runs in order to provide a measure of the climate variability exhibited by the model. These experiments will be forced by the observed natural and anthropogenic evolutions of solar irradiance, stratospheric aerosol load, carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions, and concentrations of greenhouse gases other than CO2 and of sulphate aerosols for the period 1750-2000, and by the six SRES marker scenarios and the IS92a scenario developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for the twenty-first century. Projections of climate and sea-level changes over the third millennium will follow plausible emission scenarios designed to reach concentration stabilisation at various levels. A series of sensitivity experiments will assess the importance of including interactive ice-sheet, land-vegetation, and carbon-cycle representations in the model.

In all our experiments, a special emphasis will be on the evolution of carbon-dioxide uptake by the ocean and the continental biosphere and on the stability of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets. In addition, the influence of heat and freshwater fluxes on the thermohaline circulation in the North Atlantic and the effects of the latter on European climate will be investigated thoroughly. In particular, the thresholds at which abrupt climate change could occur in the third millennium will be determined on the basis of model results.

Publications (2)  Top | Institutes 
  • Driesschaert, E. et al. (2006). Impact of a Greenland deglaciation on the climate of the next millennia. Université Catholique de Louvain: Louvain la Neuve. 1 poster pp.
  • Driesschaert, E. et al. (2006). On the warming asymmetry between Europe and North America in climate change projections. Université Catholique de Louvain: Louvain la Neuve. 1 poster pp.

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