The Mediterranean hydrologic budget from a Late Miocene global climate simulation

During the Late Miocene the Mediterranean experienced a period of extreme salinity fluctuations known as the Messinian Salinity Crisis (MSC). The causes of these high amplitude changes in salinity are not fully understood but are thought to be the result of restriction of flow between the Mediterranean and Atlantic, eustatic sea level change and climate. Results from a new Atmospheric General Circulation Model (AGCM) simulation of Late Miocene climate for the Mediterranean and adjacent regions are presented here. The model, HadAM3, was forced by a Late Miocene global palaeogeography, higher CO2 concentrations and prescribed sea surface temperatures. The results show that fluvial freshwater fluxes to the Mediterranean in the Late Miocene were around 3 times greater than for the present day. Most of this water was derived from North African rivers, which fed the Eastern Mediterranean. This increase in runoff arises from a northward shift in the intertropical convergence zone caused by a reduced latitudinal gradient in global sea surface temperatures. The northwards drainage of the Late Miocene Chad Basin also contributes. Numerical models designed to explore Late Miocene salt precipitation regimes in the Mediterranean, which typically make use of river discharge fluxes within a few tens of percent of present-day values, may therefore be grossly underestimating these fluxes. Although the AGCM simulated Late Miocene river discharge is high, the model predicts a smaller net hydrologic budget (river discharge plus precipitation minus evaporation) than for present day. We discuss a possible mechanism by which this change in the hydrologic budget, coupled with a reduced connection between the Mediterranean and the global ocean, could cause the salinity fluctuations of the MSC.


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Authors: Gladstone, Rupert, Flecker, Rachel, Valdes, Paul, Lunt, Dan, Marwick, Paul

1 January, 2007
Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology / 251
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