Orbital, tectonic and oceanographic controls on Pliocene climate and atmospheric circulation in Arctic Norway

Sina Panitz*, Ulrich Salzmann, Bjørg Risebrobakken, Stijn De Schepper, Matthew J. Pound, Alan M. Haywood, Aisling M. Dolan, Daniel J. Lunt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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During the Pliocene Epoch, a stronger-than-present overturning circulation has been invoked to explain the enhanced warming in the Nordic Seas region in comparison to low to mid-latitude regions. While marine records are indicative of changes in the northward heat transport via the North Atlantic Current (NAC) during the Pliocene, the long-term terrestrial climate evolution and its driving mechanisms are poorly understood. We present the first two-million-year-long Pliocene pollen record for the Nordic Seas region from Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) Hole 642B, reflecting vegetation and climate in Arctic Norway, to assess the influence of oceanographic and atmospheric controls on Pliocene climate evolution. The vegetation record reveals a long-term cooling trend in northern Norway, which might be linked to a general decline in atmospheric CO2 concentrations over the studied interval, and climate oscillations primarily controlled by precession (23 kyr), obliquity (54 kyr) and eccentricity (100 kyr) forcing. In addition, the record identifies four major shifts in Pliocene vegetation and climate mainly controlled by changes in northward heat transport via the NAC. Cool temperate (warmer than present) conditions prevailed between 5.03–4.30 Ma, 3.90–3.47 Ma and 3.29–3.16 Ma and boreal (similar to present) conditions predominated between 4.30–3.90 Ma, 3.47–3.29 and after 3.16 Ma. A distinct decline in sediment and pollen accumulation rates at c. 4.65 Ma is probably linked to changes in ocean currents, marine productivity and atmospheric circulation. Climate model simulations suggest that changes in the strength of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation during the Early Pliocene could have affected atmospheric circulation in the Nordic Seas region, which would have affected the direction of pollen transport from Scandinavia to ODP Hole 642B.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-193
Number of pages11
JournalGlobal and Planetary Change
Early online date23 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018


  • Central American seaway
  • North Atlantic current
  • Pliocene
  • Pollen
  • Vegetation


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