U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights

Studying the Pliocene Paradox.
Published: June 12, 2006
Posted: June 28, 2006

Environmental conditions during the early Pliocene, 3 to 5 million years ago, were similar to and also very different from those of today. The intensity of sunlight incident on Earth, the global geography, and the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide were close to what they are today, but surface temperatures in polar regions were so much higher that continental glaciers were absent from the Northern Hemisphere, and sea level was 25 m higher than today. This apparent paradox--that the climate state of today is different from that during the early Pliocene despite the same external forcing, has been examined in a paper published in the June 9 issue of Science. According to the team of authors, lead by a PI sponsored by the Office of Science, the study has implications for future climate: a future melting of glaciers, changes in the hydrological cycle, and a deepening of the thermocline could restore the warm conditions of the early Pliocene.


  1. Richard A. Kerr: PALEOCLIMATOLOGY: Looking Way Back for the World's Climate Future. Science 9 June 2006: 1456-1457
  2. A. V. Fedorov, P. S. Dekens, M. McCarthy, A. C. Ravelo, P. B. deMenocal, M. Barreiro, R. C. Pacanowski, S. G. Philander. The Pliocene Paradox (Mechanisms for a Permanent El Niño) Science, 312, 1485-1489.

Contact: Anjuli Bamzai, SC-23.3, (301) 903-0294
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Earth and Environmental Systems Modeling

Division: SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER
      (formerly SC-23.3 Climate Change Research Division, OBER)


BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

May 10, 2019
Quantifying Decision Uncertainty in Water Management via a Coupled Agent-Based Model
Considering risk perception can improve the representation of human decision-making processes in age [more...]

May 09, 2019
Projecting Global Urban Area Growth Through 2100 Based on Historical Time Series Data and Future Scenarios
Study provides country-specific urban area growth models and the first dataset on country-level urba [more...]

May 05, 2019
Calibrating Building Energy Demand Models to Refine Long-Term Energy Planning
A new, flexible calibration approach improved model accuracy in capturing year-to-year changes in bu [more...]

May 03, 2019
Calibration and Uncertainty Analysis of Demeter for Better Downscaling of Global Land Use and Land Cover Projections
Researchers improved the Demeter model’s performance by calibrating key parameters and establi [more...]

Apr 22, 2019
Representation of U.S. Warm Temperature Extremes in Global Climate Model Ensembles
Representation of warm temperature events varies considerably among global climate models, which has [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)