The Miocene: The Future of the Past

M. Steinthorsdottir*, H. K. Coxall, A. M. de Boer, M. Huber, N. Barbolini, C. D. Bradshaw, N. J. Burls, S. J. Feakins, E. Gasson, J. Henderiks, A. E. Holbourn, S. Kiel, M. J. Kohn, G. Knorr, W. M. Kürschner, C. H. Lear, D. Liebrand, D. J. Lunt, T. Mörs, P. N. PearsonM. J. Pound, H. Stoll, C. A.E. Strömberg

*Corresponding author for this work

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

10 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The Miocene epoch (23.03–5.33 Ma) was a time interval of global warmth, relative to today. Continental configurations and mountain topography transitioned toward modern conditions, and many flora and fauna evolved into the same taxa that exist today. Miocene climate was dynamic: long periods of early and late glaciation bracketed a ∼2 Myr greenhouse interval—the Miocene Climatic Optimum (MCO). Floras, faunas, ice sheets, precipitation, pCO2, and ocean and atmospheric circulation mostly (but not ubiquitously) covaried with these large changes in climate. With higher temperatures and moderately higher pCO2 (∼400–600 ppm), the MCO has been suggested as a particularly appropriate analog for future climate scenarios, and for assessing the predictive accuracy of numerical climate models—the same models that are used to simulate future climate. Yet, Miocene conditions have proved difficult to reconcile with models. This implies either missing positive feedbacks in the models, a lack of knowledge of past climate forcings, or the need for re-interpretation of proxies, which might mitigate the model-data discrepancy. Our understanding of Miocene climatic, biogeochemical, and oceanic changes on broad spatial and temporal scales is still developing. New records documenting the physical, chemical, and biotic aspects of the Earth system are emerging, and together provide a more comprehensive understanding of this important time interval. Here, we review the state-of-the-art in Miocene climate, ocean circulation, biogeochemical cycling, ice sheet dynamics, and biotic adaptation research as inferred through proxy observations and modeling studies.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2020PA004037
JournalPaleoceanography and Paleoclimatology
Volume36
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The initial workshops that catalyzed this project were supported by The Bolin Center for Climate Research, Stockholm University, and the Swedish Research Council (Conference Grant nr. 2018?06,618 to M. Steinthorsdottir). The authors acknowledge funding from: the Swedish Research Council (VR starting grant nr. NT7-2016 04,905 to M. Steinthorsdottir; VR grants nr. 2016?03,912 to A. M. de Boer and nr. 2016?04,434 to J. Henderiks); the United States National Science Foundation (NSF), through the P2C2 program grant nr. 1602905 to M. Huber, the Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences program grant nr. to N.J.B (who is also supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation as a Research Fellow), and the Global Change, Sedimentary Geology & Paleobiology, and Geobiology and Low-temperature Geochemistry programs grant nrs. 1349749 and1561027 to M. J. Kohn; and the UK Natural Environment Research Council (grant NE/P019102) to C. H. Lear. E. Gasson acknowledges funding from a Royal Society fellowship. Clara Bolton, Peter Bijl, Daniel Breecker, Jeremy Caves Rugenstein, Florence Collioni, Mikael Fortelius, David Lazarus, Eelco Rohling, Francesca Sangiorgi, Maria Seton, Erik Skovbjerg Rasmussen, Appy Sluijs, Lars Werdelin, and Zhongshi Zhang are thanked for their useful comments with respect to Figure?1. M. Huber acknowledges assistance in Miocene work from Nick Herold and Ashley Dicks. No new data were created for this study, and all reviewed data sets are available through the cited original papers. The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Funding Information:
The initial workshops that catalyzed this project were supported by The Bolin Center for Climate Research, Stockholm University, and the Swedish Research Council (Conference Grant nr. 2018–06,618 to M. Steinthorsdottir). The authors acknowledge funding from: the Swedish Research Council (VR starting grant nr. NT7‐2016 04,905 to M. Steinthorsdottir; VR grants nr. 2016–03,912 to A. M. de Boer and nr. 2016–04,434 to J. Henderiks); the United States National Science Foundation (NSF), through the P2C2 program grant nr. 1602905 to M. Huber, the Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences program grant nr. to N.J.B (who is also supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation as a Research Fellow), and the Global Change, Sedimentary Geology & Paleobiology, and Geobiology and Low‐temperature Geochemistry programs grant nrs. 1349749 and1561027 to M. J. Kohn; and the UK Natural Environment Research Council (grant NE/P019102) to C. H. Lear. E. Gasson acknowledges funding from a Royal Society fellowship. Clara Bolton, Peter Bijl, Daniel Breecker, Jeremy Caves Rugenstein, Florence Collioni, Mikael Fortelius, David Lazarus, Eelco Rohling, Francesca Sangiorgi, Maria Seton, Erik Skovbjerg Rasmussen, Appy Sluijs, Lars Werdelin, and Zhongshi Zhang are thanked for their useful comments with respect to Figure 1 . M. Huber acknowledges assistance in Miocene work from Nick Herold and Ashley Dicks. No new data were created for this study, and all reviewed data sets are available through the cited original papers. The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020. The Authors.

Keywords

  • climate modeling
  • paleobiota
  • paleoclimate
  • paleoenvironments
  • review
  • the Miocene

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