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Modelling the evolution of climate and sea level over the third millennium (MILMO)

Research project EV/09 (Research action ev)

Persons :

Description :


A large number of modelling studies have addressed the likely effects of greenhouse-gas-induced climate change over the 21st century, but the longer-term effects have received much less attention. Yet these effects could be very significant, as a persistent increase in global mean temperature may ultimately influence the large-scale processes in the Earth system that play a central role in determining global climate. The aim of MILMO is to provide decision-makers with long-term projections of climate and sea-level changes with increased confidence.

MILMO consists of Belgian scientists who are deeply involved in the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and in international research programmes on climate change such as IGBP (International Geosphere and Biosphere Programme) and WCRP (World Climate Research Programme). This ensures that the results will be widely disseminated both to scientists involved in studying climate change and the communities involved in impact studies.

Project description


The overall objective of MILMO is to improve projections of global and European climate and sea-level changes for the 21st century and to profoundly investigate processes and dynamic feedback in the climate system as well as the likelihood of abrupt climate and sea-level changes during the 3rd millennium. The approach is to implement and use an efficient three-dimensional atmosphere-vegetation-sea-ice-ocean model coupled with a model of the oceanic carbon cycle and improved thermo-mechanical models of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. With the coupled model, we will study climate and sea-level changes for the periods 1750-2000, 2000-2100, and 2000-3000. A series of sensitivity experiments will assess the importance of including interactive ice-sheet, land-vegetation, and carbon-cycle representations in the model.


Investigating the long-term response of climate and sea level to human activities requires the operation of global three-dimensional models, which encompass all relevant components of the climate system (i.e., the atmosphere, the oceans, the ice masses, the upper Earth’s mantle, and the living world). But most importantly, these models must be computationally fast enough so that integration of longer duration and a larger number of sensitivity experiments can be performed than is usually the case with climate general circulation models. To achieve this requires some simplifications in the most CPU-time demanding model component, which is usually the atmospheric component.

Models of this type do not yet exist but are being developed in several European and American research laboratories. Here we propose to build such a model (LOVECLIM) by coupling an efficient three-dimensional atmosphere-vegetation-sea-ice-ocean model with a model of the oceanic carbon cycle and with thermo-mechanical models of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. All three model components were partly developed within the First Multi-annual Scientific Support Plan for a Sustainable Development Policy (SPSD I). 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.

Interactions between the different partners

Link with international programmes

MILMO's objectives are along the lines of those of the CLIVAR (Climate Variability and Predictability) and ACSYS/CliC (Arctic Climate System Study/Climate and Cryosphere) programmes of the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), the International Geosphere and Biosphere Programme (IGBP) and the 6th Framework Programme of the European Union.

Expected results and/or products

Once validated, the model will be utilised to advance our understanding of interactions in the climate system, to improve climate-change projections at the century time scale and beyond, and to explore the threat of possible rapid climate and sea-level changes during the 3rd millennium. Dissemination of results will take place via the training of young researchers, participation in and presentations at national and international scientific meetings and publication of results in international, peer-reviewed scientific journals. As far as possible, workshops will be organised with other Belgian teams involved in the Second Multi-annual Scientific Support Plan for a Sustainable Development Policy (SPSD II) to inform them about our results.

A specific web site will be created on the server of the co-ordinator. This web site will provide full information about the objectives, the models, and the progress of the project. Furthermore, it will include a database with the relevant model outputs. It is also planned to incorporate the outcomes of MILMO’s projections of climate and sea level changes in international climatic databases such as the IPCC’s one.

So that a public as large as possible can know about the research results, members of MILMO will engage in vulgarisation activities such as
(1) publication of documents to be used by policy makers, the OSTC, non-governmental organisations, enterprises, and the general public,
(2) conferences in universities, schools, and societies,
(3) press releases, and
(4) printed press, television, and radio interviews.



Over the last 30 years, UCL-ASTR has gained a world-wide reputation for the study of climate, climatic changes, and mesoscale meteorology. In particular, it has a great deal of expertise in three-dimensional global climate modelling. Since more than 15 years, VUB-DGGF is deeply involved in ice-sheet modelling. It has developed three-dimensional thermo-mechanical models for the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets that were amongst the first of their kind, and which are widely regarded as state-of-the-art. Research activities at ULg-LPAP cover two distinct areas: (1) modelling of biogeochemical cycles in connection with global change and sustainable development, and palaeoclimate studies; (2) physics of the Earth’s upper atmosphere and study of giant planets’ auroras with the Hubble Space Telescope.

Contact Information

Project co-ordinator:
Mr Thierry Fichefet
Université Catholique de Louvain
Institut d’Astronomie et de Géophysique Georges Lemaître (UCL-ASTR)
2, chemin du Cyclotron, B-1348 Louvain-la-Neuve
Tel: +32 (0)10 47 32 95; Fax: +32 (0)10 47 47 22

Project partners:
Mr Philippe Huybrechts and Mr Hugo Decleir
Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Departement Geografie (VUB-DGGF)
Pleinlaan 2, B-1050 Brussels
Tel: +32 (0)2 629 35 93; Fax: +32 (0)2 629 33 78

Mr Guy Munhoven and Mrs Anne Mouchet
Université de Liège
Institut d’Astrophysique et de Géophysique - Laboratoire de Physique Atmosphérique et Planétaire (ULg-LPAP)
5, avenue de Cointe, B-4000 Liège
Tel: +32 (0)4 254 75 71; Fax: +32 (0)4 254 75 73

Users Committee

Dhr. Freddy Decamps, Nationaal Agentschap voor Radioactief Afval en Verrijkte Splijtingstoffen, Brussel.
Leo De Nocker, Vlaamse Instelling voor Technologisch Onderzoek (VITO), Mol.
Nadine Gouzée, Federaal Planbureau, Brussel.
Sarah Raper, University of East Anglia, Climatic Research Unit, Norwich.
Emmanuel Roulin, Koninklijk Meteorologisch Instituut van België (IRM-KMI), Brussel.
Peter Wittoeck, Federale Dienst voor het Leefmilieu, Brussel.

Documentation :

Modelling the evolution of climate and sea level over the third millennium (MILMO) : final report  Fichefet, Thierry - Driesschaert, Emmanuelle - Goosse, Hugues ... et al  Brussels : Federal Science Policy, 2007 (SP1755)
[To download]  [To order

Bibliografic references :

A model intercomparaison of changes in the Atlantic thermohaline circulation in response to increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration  Gregory, J.M., K.W. Dixon, R.J. Stouffer, A.J. Weaver, E. Driesschaert, M. Eby, T. Fichefet, H. Hasumi, A. Hu, J.H. Jungclaus, I.V. Kamenkovich, A. Levermann, M. Montoya, S. Murakami, S. Nawrath, A. Oka, A.P. Sokolov, and R.B. Thorpe Geophys. Res. Lett., 32, L12703; doi: 10.1029/2005GL023209, 2005 

Aragonite Undersaturation in the High-Latitude Surface Ocean within the 21st Century  Orr, J. C., O. Aumont, L. Bopp, K.Caldeira, S.C. Doney, V.J. Fabry Nature, 437, doi:10/1038/nature04095, 2005 

Biogeophysical effects of historical land cover changes simulated by six Earth system models of intermediate complexity  Brovkin, V., M. Claussen, E. Driesschaert, T. Fichefet, D. Kicklighter, M.-F. Loutre, D. Matthews, D. Ramankutty, M. Schaeffer, and A. Sokolov  Climate Dynamics, 26, doi : 10.1007/s00382-005-0092-6, 2006 

Changes in European precipitation seasonality and in drought frequencies revealed by a four-century-long tree-ring isotopic record from Brittany, western France  Masson-Delmotte V., G. Raffalli-Delerce, P.A. Danis, P. Yiou, M. Stievenard, F. Guibal, O. Mestre, V. Bernard, H. Goosse, G. Hoffmann, Jean Jouzel Climate Dynamics, 24; doi: 10.1007/s00382-004-0458-1, 2005 

Contrasting trends in North Atlantic deep-water formation in the Labrador and Nordic Seas during the Holocene  Renssen H., H. Goosse and T. Fichefet Geophysical Research Letters, 32, L08711, doi:10.1029/2005GL022462, 2005 

Coupled climate model simulation of Holocene cooling events: oceanic feedback amplifies solar forcing  Renssen H., H. Goosse and R. Muscheler Climate of the Past, 2, (, 2006 

EMIC Intercomparison Project (EMIP-CO2) : Comparative analysis of EMIC simulations of current climate and equilibrium and transient responses to atmospheric CO2 doubling.  Petoukhov V., M. Claussen, A. Berger, M. Crucifix, M. Eby, A. Eliseev, T. Fichefet, A. Ganopolski, H. Goosse, I. Kamenkovich, I. Mokhov, M. Montoya, L.A. Mysak, A. Sokolov, P. Stone, Z. Wang, and A.J. Weaver Clim. Dyn., 25, doi : 10.1007/s00382-005-0042-3, 2005 

ENSO suppression due to weakening of the North Atlantic thermohaline circulation  Timmermann A., S.-I. An, U. Krebs and H. Goosse Journal of Climate, 18 (16), 2005 

Evaluation of different freshwater forcing scenarios for the 8.2 ka BP event in a coupled climate model  Wiersma A.P., H. Renssen, H. Goosse and T. Fichefet Climate Dynamics (sous presse), 2006 

Evaluation of ocean carbon cycle models with data-based metrics  Matsumoto,K., J. L. Samiento, R. M. Key, O. Aumont, J.L. Bullister, K Geophys. Res. Lett. 31,L07303, doi;10.1029/2003GL018970, 2004 

Evaluation of OCMIP-2 ocean models' deep circulatiion with mantle helium-3  Dufay J.-C., P. Jean Baptiste, J.-M. Campin, A. Ashida, E. Maier-Reimer, R. J. Matear, A. Mouchet J. Mar.Systems. 48/1-4 - doi:10.1016-j.jmarsys.2003.05.010, 2004 

Exciting natural modes of variability by solar and volcanic forcing: idealized and realistic experiments  Goosse H. and H. Renssen Climate Dynamics, 23, doi: 10.1007/s00382-004-0424-y, 2004 

Inverse estimates of Anthropic Cabon Uptake, Transport and Storage by the Ocean  Mikaloff Fletcher, S.E., N. Gruber, A. R. Jacobson, S.C., Doney, S., Dutkiewicz, M. Global Biochemical Cycles, 20, GB2002, doi:10 1029/2005GB002530, 2006 

Long-term projections of climate change commitment  Plattner, G.-K., R. Knutti, F. Joos, T.F. Stocker, V. Brovkin, E. Driesschaert, S. Dutkiewicz, M. Eby, N.R. Edwards, T. Fichefet, C. Jones, M.-F. Loutre, H. D. Matthews, A. Mouchet, S.A. Müller, S. Nawrath, A. Sokolov, K. Strassmann, and A. Weaver J. Clim., soumis, 2007 

Mechanisms of decadal and interdecadal Arctic variability in the Community Climate System Model CCSM2  Goosse H and M. Holland Journal of Climate, 18 (17), 2005 

Mechansims for millennial-scale global synchronizing during the last glacial period  Timmermann A., U. Krebs, F. Justino, H. Goosse and T. Ivanochko Paleoceanography, 20, PA4008, doi: 10.1029.2004PA001090, 2005 

Modeling the influence of the Greenland ice sheet melting on the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation  Driesschaert, E., T. Fichefet, H. Goosse, P. Huybrechts, I. Janssens, A. Mouchet, G. Munhoven, V. Brovkin, and S.L. Weber Geophys. Res. Lett., soumis, 2007 

Modelling the climate of the last millennium: What causes the differences between simulations?  Goosse H., T. Crowley, E. Zorita, C. Ammann, H. Renssen and E. Driesschaert Geophysical Research Letters, 32, L06710, doi:10.1029/2005GL22368, 2005 

On the importance of initial conditions for simulations of the Mid-Holocene climate  Renssen, H., E. Driesschaert, M.-F. Loutre, and T. Fichefet Climate of the Past, 2, 2006 

Sea ice evolution over the 20th and 21st centuries as simulated by current AOGCM  Arzel O., T. Fichefet, H. Goosse  Ocean Modelling, 12, 2006 

Sensitivity of global river discharges under Holocene and future climate conditions  Aerts J. , H. Renssen, Ph. Ward, H. de Moel, E. Odada, L. Bouwer and H. Goosse Geophysical Reasearch Letters (sous presse), 2006 

Simulation of Holocene cooling events in a coupled climate model  Renssen, H., H. Goosse, and T. Fichefet Quaternary Sciences Review, sous presse, 2006 

Simulation of the Holocene climate evolution in Northern Africa: the termination of the African Humid Period  Renssen H., V. Brovkin, T. Fichefet and H. Goosse Quaternary International, 150, 2006 

Surface temperature control in the North Pacific during the last glacial maximum  Timmermann A., F. Justino Barbosa, F.F. Jin and H. Goosse Climate Dynamics, 23, doi: 10.1007/s00382-004-0434-9, 2004 

The Holocene climate evolution in the high-latitude Southern Hemisphere simulated by a coupled atmosphere-sea ice-ocean-vegetation model  Renssen H., H. Goosse, T. Fichefet, V. Masson-Delmotte and N. Koç The Holocene, 15 (7), 2005 

The origin of the European "Medieval Warm Period"  Goosse H., O. Arzel, J. Luterbacher, M. E. Mann, H. Renssen, N. Riedwyl, A. Timmermann, E. Xoplaki and H. Wanner Climate of the Past, 2, ( ), 2006 

Thermohaline circulation hysteresis: a model intercomparison  Rahmstorf S., M. Crucifix, A. Ganopolski, H. Goosse, I. Kamenkovich, R. Knutti, G. Lohmann, B. Marsh, L. Mysak, Z. Wang, A. Weaver Geophysical Research Letters, 32, L23605, doi:10.1029/2005GL23655, 2005 

Using paleoclimate proxy-data to select optimal realisations in an ensemble of simulations of the climate of the past millennium  Goosse H., H. Renssen, A. Timmermann, R.S. Bradley and M.E. Mann Climate Dynamics, 27, doi: 10.1007/s00382-006-0128-6, 2006 

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