International Journal of Earth Sciences

, Volume 101, Issue 1, pp 323–338 | Cite as

Climate impact of high northern vegetation: Late Miocene and present

  • Rainer SchneckEmail author
  • Arne Micheels
  • Volker Mosbrugger
Original Paper


The Late Miocene belongs to the late phase of the Cenozoic. Climate at that time was still warmer and more humid as compared to today, especially in the high latitudes. Corresponding to the climate situation, palaeobotanical evidences support that vegetation in the high northern latitudes changed significantly from the Late Miocene until today. To quantify the climate impact of this vegetation change, we analyse how vegetation in the high northern latitudes contribute to climate evolution. For that, we perform climate modelling sensitivity experiments for the present and for the Late Miocene (Tortonian, 11–7 Ma). For our present-day sensitivity experiment, we introduce the Tortonian vegetation in the high northern latitudes. For our Tortonian sensitivity experiment, we introduce the modern vegetation on the same grid cells. In the Tortonian and in the present, the modern vegetation leads to a strong cooling of the northern extratropics (up to −4°C). Nevertheless, the meridional heat transports remain nearly unchanged in both cases. In general, the vegetation impact on climate is similar in the Tortonian and in the present. However, some exceptions occur. Due to the Tethys Ocean in the Tortonian, temperatures decline only weakly in eastern Europe and western Asia. In the Tortonian climate, temperatures on the Sahara realm rise (up to +1.5°C), while the temperatures do not change remarkably in the present-day climate. This different behaviour is caused by a stronger and more sensitive hydrological cycle on the Sahara region during the Tortonian.


Cenozoic cooling Late Miocene Tortonian Climate modelling Sensitivity experiments 



We gratefully acknowledge the comments of our two anonymous reviewers, which helped to improve our manuscript. This work is a contribution to the NECLIME project and was supported by the DFG within the project FOR 1070, the federal state Hessen (Germany) within the LOEWE initiative. The model Planet Simulator was kindly provided by Prof. Fraedrich and his research team from the Meteorological Institute of the University of Hamburg, Germany.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rainer Schneck
    • 1
    Email author
  • Arne Micheels
    • 1
    • 2
  • Volker Mosbrugger
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History MuseumFrankfurtGermany
  2. 2.Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (LOEWE BiK-F)FrankfurtGermany

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