Proxy data constraining land and ocean surface paleo-temperatures indicate that the Middle Miocene Climate Optimum (MMCO), a global warming event at ∼15 Ma, had a global annual mean surface temperature of 18.4°C, about 3°C higher than present and equivalent to the warming predicted for the next century. We apply the latest National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Community Atmosphere Model CAM3.1 and Land Model CLM3.0 coupled to a slab ocean to examine sensitivity of MMCO climate to varying ocean heat fluxes derived from paleo sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, using detailed reconstructions of Middle Miocene boundary conditions including paleogeography, elevation, vegetation and surface temperatures. Our model suggests that to maintain MMCO warmth consistent with proxy data, the required atmospheric CO2 concentration is about 460–580 ppmv, narrowed from the most recent estimate of 300–600 ppmv.


Manuscript Received: 4 November 2008

Manuscript Accepted: 26 January 2009

Version of record online: 19 February 2009

You, Y., M. Huber, R. D. Müller, C. J. Poulsen, and J. Ribbe (2009), Simulation of the Middle Miocene Climate Optimum, Geophysical Research Letters, 36, L04702, doi:10.1029/2008GL036571.


Miocene climatic optimum, paleoclimate, paleoclime modeling

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