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Poleward amplification, seasonal rainfall and forest heterogeneity in the Miocene of the eastern USA

February 26, 2023

Paleoclimate reconstructions can provide a window into the environmental conditions in Earth history when atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations were higher than today. In the eastern USA, paleoclimate reconstructions are sparse, because terrestrial sedimentary deposits are rare. Despite this, the eastern USA has the largest population and population density in North America, and understanding the effects of current and future climate change is of vital importance. Here, we provide terrestrial paleoclimate reconstructions of the eastern USA from Miocene fossil floras. Additionally, we compare proxy paleoclimate reconstructions from the warmest period in the Miocene, the Miocene Climatic Optimum (MCO), to those of an MCO Earth System Model. Reconstructed Miocene temperatures and precipitation north of 35°N are higher than modern. In contrast, south of 35°N, temperatures and precipitation are similar to today, suggesting a poleward amplification effect in eastern North America. Reconstructed Miocene rainfall seasonality was predominantly higher than modern, regardless of latitude, indicating greater variability in intra-annual moisture transport. Reconstructed climates are almost uniformly in the temperate seasonal forest biome, but heterogeneity of specific forest types is evident. Reconstructed Miocene terrestrial temperatures from the eastern USA are lower than modeled temperatures and coeval Atlantic sea surface temperatures. However, reconstructed rainfall is consistent with modeled rainfall. Our results show that during the Miocene, climate was most different from modern in the northeastern states, and may suggest a drastic reduction in the meridional temperature gradient along the North American east coast compared to today.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2023
Title Poleward amplification, seasonal rainfall and forest heterogeneity in the Miocene of the eastern USA
DOI 10.1016/j.gloplacha.2023.104073
Authors Tammo Reichgelt, Aly Baumgartner, Ran Feng, Debra A. Willard
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Global and Planetary Change
Index ID 70241408
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Florence Bascom Geoscience Center