The first detailed reconstruction of the continental paleoclimate evolution of the Northwest German Tertiary (Late Oligocene to Pliocene) is presented. The paleoclimate data are derived from the paleobotanical record using the coexistence approach, a method recently introduced that employs climatic requirements of the Nearest Living Relatives of a fossil flora. Twenty six megafloras (fruits and seeds, leaves, woods) from the Tertiary succession of the Lower Rhine Basin and neighboring areas are analyzed with respect to ten meteorological parameters. Additionally, two sample sets from Late Miocene to Early Pliocene sediments comprising 396 palynofloras are analyzed by the same method providing a higher temporal resolution. The temperature curves show a comparatively cooler phase in the Late Oligocene, a warm interval the Middle Miocene, and a cooling starting at 14 Ma. The cooling trend persisted until Late Pliocene with a few higher frequency temperature variations observed. From the beginning of Late Miocene to the present, the seasonality increases and climate appears to have been less stable. As indicated by the precipitation data, a Cfa climate with wet summers persisted in NW Germany from Late Oligocene to Late Pliocene.
The results obtained are well in accordance with regional and global isotope curves derived from the marine record, and allow for a refined correlation of the Tertiary succession in the Lower Rhine Basin with the international standard. It is shown that the reconstructed data are largely consistent with the continental climate record for the Northern Hemisphere, as reported by various authors. Discrepancies with previous reconstructions are discussed in detail.