Reconstructing geographical boundary conditions for palaeoclimate modelling during the Cenozoic
Studies on the palaeoclimate and palaeoceanography using numerical model simulations may be considerably dependent on the implemented geographical reconstruction. Because building the palaeogeographic datasets for these models is often a time-consuming and elaborate exercise, palaeoclimate models frequently use reconstructions in which the latest state-of-the-art plate tectonic reconstructions, palaeotopography and -bathymetry, or vegetation have not yet been incorporated. In this paper, we therefore provide a new method to efficiently generate a global geographical reconstruction for the middle-late Eocene. The generalised procedure is also reusable to create reconstructions for other time slices within the Cenozoic, suitable for palaeoclimate modelling. We use a plate-tectonic model to make global masks containing the distribution of land, continental shelves, shallow basins and deep ocean. The use of depth-age relationships for oceanic crust together with adjusted present-day topography gives a first estimate of the global geography at a chosen time frame. This estimate subsequently needs manual editing of areas where existing geological data indicate that the altimetry has changed significantly over time. Certain generic changes (e.g. lowering mountain ranges) can be made relatively easily by defining a set of masks while other features may require a more specific treatment. Since the discussion regarding many of these regions is still ongoing, it is crucial to make it easy for changes to be incorporated without having to redo the entire procedure. In this manner, a complete reconstruction can be made that suffices as a boundary condition for numerical models with a limited effort. This facilitates the interaction between experts in geology and palaeoclimate modelling, keeping reconstructions up to date and improving the consistency between different studies. Moreover, it facilitates model inter-comparison studies and sensitivity tests regarding certain geographical features as newly generated boundary conditions can more easily be incorporated in different model simulations. The workflow is presented covering a middle-late Eocene reconstruction (38 Ma), using a MatLab script and a complete set of source files that are provided in the supplementary material.