Reconstructing Pliocene coastlines, topography and bathymetry: A geodynamic perspective

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Deepak Chandan, University of Toronto, Physics, Toronto, ON, Canada and W Richard Peltier, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
The middle Pliocene period (~3.3-3.0 Mya) was characterized by warm temperatures (2-3℃ higher) and high carbon-dioxide (~400 ppmv) concentrations which has led to its recognition as a possible analogue for the future climate. Under the auspices of the Pliocene Modeling and Intercomparison Project (PlioMIP), general circulation models (GCM’s) are being employed to simulate mid-Pliocene climate to better understand the biases in these models, which are presently used to make future climate predictions. 

Necessary boundary conditions for these simulations — land mask, topography, surface albedo and vegetation cover are being provided by the Pliocene Research, Interpretation and Synoptic Mapping (PRISM) project. Bathymetry, which is not part of the PRISM supplied dataset has been adjusted by raising the sea-level by an assumed constant eustatic amount. At present the PRISM land mask, topography and bathymetry reconstructions do not incorporate the gravitationally self consistent changes that would be required to account for the mass loss from the Greenland and Antarctic ice-sheets that produced the assumed rise in eustatic sea level. The effects of dynamic topography induced corrections, due to the action of the mantle convection process, have also been neglected.

The influence of these corrections on the predictions of Pliocene climate using modern GCM’s remains unexplored. The continuing failure of these models to simulate proxy inferred levels of warming in high-latitude [Dowsett et al., 2013, Sci. Rep.] regions where the magnitude of the required corrections are expected to be largest make it especially important that their impact be assessed. Here, we present the results from a preliminary of the required modifications to the boundary condition data sets.

We compute the gravitationally self consistent corrections using the viscoelastic theory of global, glacial isostatic adjustment and relative sea level history for a spherically symmetric Earth model. Dynamic topography related changes are computed using a 3D convection model initialized using seismic tomography. Together, this creates an updated picture of the mid-Pliocene shoreline, topography and bathymetry that can be employed as boundary conditions for future Pliocene climate modeling.