EGU23-13297, updated on 26 Feb 2023
EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

A drier Mediterranean region at the Miocene to Pliocene transition

Iuliana Vasiliev1, Konstantina Agiadi2, Jens Fiebig3, and Andreas Mulch1,3
Iuliana Vasiliev et al.
  • 1Senckenberg Research Climate Centre, Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre, Frankfurt am Main, Germany (
  • 2Department of Palaeontology, University of Vienna, Josef-Holaubek-Platz 2 (UZA II), 1090, Vienna, Austria
  • 3Institute of Geosciences, Goethe University Frankfurt, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Between 5.97-5.33 Ma, kilometre-thick evaporite units were deposited in the Mediterranean Basin during the so-called Messinian Salinity Crisis (MSC). The MSC was marked by a strongly negative hydrological budget, with a net evaporative loss of water exceeding precipitation and riverine runoff. Knowledge about the contemporary changes in continental and marine circum-Mediterranean environments are still limited to qualitative descriptions in terms of temperature and humidity. Here we reconstruct continental mean annual temperatures (MAT) using branched glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraether (brGDGT) biomarkers for the time period corresponding to MSC Stage 3 (5.55-5.33 Ma) and compare them with values obtained from Δ47 clumped isotope geochemistry measured on paleosol carbonate nodules found at few locations in the Mediterranean basin. Additionally, for the same time interval, we estimate sea surface temperatures (SSTs) of the Mediterranean Sea using the isoprenoidal GDGT-based TEX86 proxy. The excellently preserved organic biomarkers were extracted from outcrops onshore (Malaga, Sicily, Cyprus) and offshore (DSDP core holes 124 and 134 from the Balearic abyssal plane, hole 374 from the Ionian Basin and hole 376 drilled west of Cyprus) covering a rather vast portion of the Mediterranean Basin.

Calculated MATs for the 5.55 to 5.33 Ma time interval show values around 16 to 19 ºC for the Malaga, Sicily and Cyprus outcrops. The MAT values calculated for DSDP Leg 13 holes 124, 134 and Leg 42A holes 374 and 376 are lower, around 13 to 16 ºC. Comparing the brGDGT-MAT values with Δ47-MAT values from carbonate nodules, shows high congruence between both approaches. For the northern Mediterranean Δ47-MAT is 20 ºC and brGDGT-MAT is 19 ºC. For Cyprus Δ47-MAT is 21 ºC and brGDGT-MAT is 18 ºC. Given the very different type of the used paleoproxies, the similarity of the obtained MAT values provides a strong indication of their (cross)validity in sampled sections. Additionally, the measured δ18O values of ~33‰ (VSMOW) for the carbonate nodules used for the Δ47-MAT indicate highly evaporative conditions for the two onland sites where these were collected (Northern Apennines and Cyprus).

For samples where the branched and isoprenoid tetraether index was lower than 0.4 we could calculate TEX86 derived SSTs averaging around 27 ºC for all sampled locations, reaching the higher end of the values obtained in the Mediterranean region for the pre-MSC through Uk37 and TEX86 derived SSTs of Tzanova et al. (2015), Vasiliev et al. (2019) and Kontakiotis et al. 2022. Independent of pitfalls that may arise in using molecular biomarkers as temperature proxies, both SST estimates independently hint towards much warmer Mediterranean Sea water during the latest phase, Stage 3 of the MSC. These elevated temperatures coincide with higher δ2H values measured on alkenones and long chain n-alkanes (both records indicating more arid and/or warmer conditions than today between 5.55 and 5.33 Ma). We conclude that between 5.55 to 5.33 Ma the temperatures in the Mediterranean region was similar to present-day conditions, yet the region has suffered from excess evaporation as indicated by combined high δ18O values from carbonate nodules δ2H values from biomarkers.

How to cite: Vasiliev, I., Agiadi, K., Fiebig, J., and Mulch, A.: A drier Mediterranean region at the Miocene to Pliocene transition, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-13297,, 2023.