The Deep-Time Model Intercomparison Project (DeepMIP)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Geographical Sciences


Predictions of future climate, essential for safeguarding society and ecosystems, are underpinned by numerical models of the Earth system. These models are routinely tested against, and in many cases tuned towards, observations of the modern Earth system. However, the model predictions of the climate of the end of this century lie largely outside of this evaluation period, due to the projected future CO2 forcing being significantly greater than that seen in the observational record. Indeed, recent work reconstructing past CO2 has shown that the closest analogues to the 22nd century, in terms of CO2 concentration, are tens of millions of years ago, in 'Deep-Time'.

The Palaeoclimate Modelling Intercomparison Project (PMIP) provides a framework (but no funding!) by which the palaeoclimate modelling community assesses state-of-the-art climate models relative to past climate data. Traditionally, PMIP has focussed on the relatively recent mid-Holocene (6,000 years ago) and Last Glacial Maximum (21,000 years ago), but these time periods have even lower CO2 than modern (~280 and ~180 ppmv respectively, c.f. ~400 ppmv for the modern). Recently, PMIP has expanded into other time periods, most notably the mid-Pliocene (3 million years ago), but even then, CO2 was most likely less than modern values (~380 ppmv). The modelling community would clearly benefit from an intercomparison of 'Deep-Time' climates, when CO2 levels were close to those predicted for the end of this century.

We will organise and provide funding for 2 workshops, with the aim of producing papers describing the experimental design and outputs from a new climate Model Intercomparison Project - "DeepMIP", focussing on past climates in which atmospheric CO2 concentrations were similar to those projected for the end of this century. The papers will evaluate the models relative to past geological data, and aim to understand the reasons for the model-model differences and model-data (dis)agreements, providing information of relevance to the IPCC.

A previous NERC grant, NE/K014757/1, is currently aiming to assess climate sensitivity (the response of surface air temperature to a doubling of atmospheric CO2), through geological time. That project is focussing on many time periods, but with only one model. This IOF will complement that project, and bring added-value, by focussing on one particular time period, but with many models. As such we will address the crucial issue of model-dependence.

Planned Impact

Description We have so far written an experimental design for the DeepMIP project (Lunt et al), written a proxy overview paper (Hollis et al), and had five meetings (to of which were funded directly form this grant).
Together, these two papers will set the scene for further papers that compare models and proxies, and will contribute to the IPCC - see
Also, we have now published the culmination of this grant: Lunt et al (2021).
Exploitation Route Others have followed the experimental design, and are writing associated papers (see above)
Sectors Environment

Description Public-outreach articles:
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Environment
Impact Types Societal

Description NERC Large Grant
Amount £2,318,987 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/P01903X/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2017 
End 08/2022
Description The DeepMIP community 
Organisation Purdue University
Department Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I founded DeepMIP and am the lead organiser.
Collaborator Contribution All members of the DeepMIP community contribute.
Impact Multidisciplinary. for more info.
Start Year 2015