Impact of Atmospheric CO2 and Atlantic-Arctic Gateway Evolution on Miocene Climate and Ocean Circulation Changes

akil.hossain [ at ]


The Miocene (23.03–5.33 Ma) was a time period with a warmer climate than today. During this period, changes in ocean gateways and atmospheric CO2 levels largely control ocean circulation and climate changes. However, the underlying ocean processes and dynamics are poorly understood and it remains a challenge to simulate Miocene climate key characteristics such as pronounced polar warming and a reduced meridional temperature gradient. By applying state-of-the-art fully coupled atmosphere-ocean-sea-ice model approaches Miocene climate conditions at different atmospheric CO2 concentrations are simulated and thermohaline changes in response to the subsidence of Atlantic-Arctic gateways for various Greenland-Scotland Ridge (GSR) and Fram Strait (FS) configurations are investigated. For a singular subsidence of the GSR, warming and a salinity increase in the Nordic Seas and the Arctic Ocean is detected. As convection sites shift to the north of Iceland, North Atlantic Deep Water (NADW) is formed at cooler temperatures. The associated deep ocean cooling and upwelling of deep waters to the Southern Ocean surface can cause a cooling in the southern high latitudes. These characteristic responses to the GSR deepening are independent of the FS being shallow or deep. An isolated subsidence or widening of the FS gateway for a deep GSR shows less pronounced warming and salinity increase in the Nordic Seas. Arctic temperatures remain unaltered, but a stronger salinity increase is detected, which further increases the density of NADW. The increase in salinity enhances the contribution of NADW to the abyssal ocean at the expense of the colder southern source water component. These relative changes cause a negligible warming in the upwelling regions of the Southern Ocean. For a sill depth of ~1500 m, ventilation of the Arctic Ocean is achieved due to enhanced import of saline Atlantic water through a FS width of ~105 km. Moreover, at this width and depth, a modern-like three-layer stratification in the Arctic Ocean is detected. The exchange flow through FS is characterized by vertical separation of a low salinity cold outflow from the Arctic Ocean confined to a thin upper layer, an intermediate saline inflow from the Atlantic Ocean below and a cold bottom Arctic outflow. These characteristics are comparable to the present-day hydrography, in spite of significantly shallower and narrower FS configurations during the early Miocene, suggesting that the ventilation mechanisms and stratification in the Arctic Ocean have been similar. In simulations with different CO2 levels (280, 450 and 720 ppm) surface temperatures show the best fit to proxy reconstructions for atmospheric CO2 concentrations of 720 ppm, since in particular the high latitude cooling bias becomes least pronounced. For a CO2 increase from 280 to 450 ppm polar amplification is simulated in the northern high latitudes, which is stronger than for the same radiative CO2 forcing from 450 to 720 ppm. At higher CO2 levels the Miocene climate also shows a reduced climate sensitivity, since the warmest Miocene climate scenario with a CO2 level of 720 ppm is characterized by a seasonality breakdown in the Arctic Ocean. A pronounced warming in boreal winter is detected for a CO2 increase from 450 to 720 ppm, in contrast to a moderate boreal summer temperature increase. This change in the seasonal temperature signature is accompanied by a strong sea-ice concentration decline and enhanced moisture availability promotes cloud formation in the summer months. As a consequence the planetary albedo increases and dampens the temperature response to the CO2 forcing at a warmer Miocene background climate.

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Hossain, A. (2022): Impact of Atmospheric CO2 and Atlantic-Arctic Gateway Evolution on Miocene Climate and Ocean Circulation Changes PhD thesis,


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