US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 606 (2022) 111249.


Used by permission.


The Miocene Climatic Optimum (MCO) provides important insights into how the climate system operates under elevated temperatures and atmospheric CO2 levels. Few western North Atlantic paleotemperature or paleoecological records exist from the MCO, despite their importance for understanding both regional and global climate dynamics. Here we present quantitative MCO paleoecological data from the western North Atlantic, specifically from the Baltimore Gas & Electric (BG&E) marine sediment core from southern Maryland, USA. We examine alkenones and planktic foraminifera and document the first sea surface temperature (SST) and productivity estimates for the MCO and the Middle Miocene Climate Transition (MMCT) from the continental shelf. Increased levels of planktic foraminifer species diversity and surface productivity accompany high sea level intervals of the MCO, indicating coastal upwelling. Cooling episodes correlate to unconformities in the BG&E core that reflect sea level lowstands; these and sedimentary cycles tie the record to eccentricity-paced Antarctic ice sheet growth and decay. This dynamic record not only captures the variability in SST, sea level and coastal productivity during the warm MCO and the transition to cooler global temperatures during the MMCT, but it also demonstrates the variability in local conditions within and between intervals of high sea level.