Simulating Miocene warmth: insights from an opportunistic Multi-Model ensemble (MioMIP1)

N. J. Burls , Catherine D. Bradshaw, Agatha M. de Boer, N. Herold, Matthew Pound, Yannick Donnadieu, Alex Farnsworth, A. Frigola, Ed Gasson, Anna S. von der Heydt, M. Huber, Michael Hutchinson, Gregor Knorr, K.T. Lawrence, Caroline H. Lear, Xiaoqing Li, Gerrit Lohmann, Dan J. Lunt, Alice Marzocchi, M. PrangeZ. Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)
8 Downloads (Pure)


The Miocene epoch, spanning 23.03–5.33 Ma, was a dynamic climate of sustained, polar amplified warmth. Miocene atmospheric CO 2 concentrations are typically reconstructed between 300 and 600 ppm and were potentially higher during the Miocene Climatic Optimum (16.75–14.5 Ma). With surface temperature reconstructions pointing to substantial midlatitude and polar warmth, it is unclear what processes maintained the much weaker-than-modern equator-to-pole temperature difference. Here, we synthesize several Miocene climate modeling efforts together with available terrestrial and ocean surface temperature reconstructions. We evaluate the range of model-data agreement, highlight robust mechanisms operating across Miocene modeling efforts and regions where differences across experiments result in a large spread in warming responses. Prescribed CO 2 is the primary factor controlling global warming across the ensemble. On average, elements other than CO 2, such as Miocene paleogeography and ice sheets, raise global mean temperature by ∼2°C, with the spread in warming under a given CO 2 concentration (due to a combination of the spread in imposed boundary conditions and climate feedback strengths) equivalent to ∼1.2 times a CO 2 doubling. This study uses an ensemble of opportunity: models, boundary conditions, and reference data sets represent the state-of-art for the Miocene, but are inhomogeneous and not ideal for a formal intermodel comparison effort. Acknowledging this caveat, this study is nevertheless the first Miocene multi-model, multi-proxy comparison attempted so far. This study serves to take stock of the current progress toward simulating Miocene warmth while isolating remaining challenges that may be well served by community-led efforts to coordinate modeling and data activities within a common analytical framework.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2020PA004054
Pages (from-to)1-40
Number of pages40
JournalPaleoceanography and Paleoclimatology
Issue number5
Early online date24 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - May 2021

Cite this