Despite tectonic conditions and atmospheric CO2 levels (pCO2) similar to those of present-day, geological reconstructions from the mid-Pliocene (3.3-3.0 Ma) document high lake levels in the Sahel and mesic conditions in subtropical Eurasia, suggesting drastic reorganizations of subtropical terrestrial hydroclimate during this interval. Here, using a compilation of proxy data and multi-model paleoclimate simulations, we show that the mid-Pliocene hydroclimate state is not driven by direct CO2 radiative forcing but by a loss of northern high-latitude ice sheets and continental greening. These ice sheet and vegetation changes are long-term Earth system feedbacks to elevated pCO2. Further, the moist conditions in the Sahel and subtropical Eurasia during the mid-Pliocene are a product of enhanced tropospheric humidity and a stationary wave response to the surface warming pattern, which varies strongly with land cover changes. These findings highlight the potential for amplified terrestrial hydroclimate responses over long timescales to a sustained CO2 forcing.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Physics and Astronomy(all)