Model study of the circulation of the Miocene Mediterranean Sea and Paratethys: closure of the Indian Gateway
A. de la Vara, P. Th. Meijer, and M. J. R. Wortel
Department of Earth Sciences, Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University, Utrecht, the Netherlands
Received: 02 Jul 2013 – Accepted for review: 15 Jul 2013 – Discussion started: 05 Aug 2013
Abstract. The early Mediterranean Sea and the Paratethys were both connected to the Indian Ocean until the Early/Middle Miocene, when the convergence of the Eurasian and African-Arabian plates caused the constriction and final closure of the Indian Gateway. Although little is certain concerning the timing of the closure and the consequences that it entailed, it is broadly accepted that it had a large effect on water properties and ocean dynamics on the regional and global scales and, in that way, may have also played a role in the evolution of climate.
The purpose of this work is to investigate the palaeocirculation of the Mediterranean Sea and the Paratethys during different stages of closure and the impact of this event on the water exchange between the Mediterranean and the adjacent Indian and Atlantic oceans. To this extent we use a regional ocean model and an Early Miocene palaeogeographic map. In addition to varying the depth of the Indian Gateway, different sets of values for the atmospheric forcing have been applied in order to check the robustness of our results and to understand the role of the temperature and net evaporation on the marine circulation and the strait dynamics.
The series of experiments performed shows that, with an Indian Gateway ranging from 1000 to 460 m deep, the Mediterranean accommodates anti-estuarine exchange to the Indian and Atlantic oceans. The shoaling of the Indian Gateway results in a progressive decrease in the water exchanged between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean basin, and increases the spatial extension of the Atlantic inflow. When the gateway is as shallow as 220 m, there is no effective water exchange between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean basin, suggesting that the gateway may have been closed in an oceanographical sense, even while a water passage was still in existence. On a basinal scale, closure results in a rearrangement of the circulation pattern which leads to changes in salinity and temperature in both the Paratethys and the Mediterranean Sea. On the global scale, closure implies the disappearance of a source of dense outflow into the Indian Ocean which could have played a role in the development of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet. The additional experiments show that the response to gateway shoaling is largely independent of the assumed atmospheric forcing.
de la Vara, A., Meijer, P. Th., and Wortel, M. J. R.: Model study of the circulation of the Miocene Mediterranean Sea and Paratethys: closure of the Indian Gateway, Clim. Past Discuss., 9, 4385-4424, doi:10.5194/cpd-9-4385-2013, 2013.