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A middle Eocene carbon cycle conundrum

A middle Eocene carbon cycle conundrum
A middle Eocene carbon cycle conundrum
The Middle Eocene Climatic Optimum (MECO) was an approximately 500,000-year-long episode of widespread ocean–atmosphere warming about 40 million years ago, superimposed on a long-term middle Eocene cooling trend. It was marked by a rise in atmospheric CO2 concentrations, biotic changes and prolonged carbonate dissolution in the deep ocean. However, based on carbon cycle theory, a rise in atmospheric CO2 and warming should have enhanced continental weathering on timescales of the MECO. This should have in turn increased ocean carbonate mineral saturation state and carbonate burial in deep-sea sediments, rather than the recorded dissolution. We explore several scenarios using a carbon cycle model in an attempt to reconcile the data with theory, but these simulations confirm the problem. The model only produces critical MECO features when we invoke a sea-level rise, which redistributes carbonate burial from deep oceans to continental shelves and decreases shelf sediment weathering. Sufficient field data to assess this scenario is currently lacking. We call for an integrated approach to unravel Earth system dynamics during carbon cycle variations that are of intermediate timescales (several hundreds of thousands of years), such as the MECO.
1752-0894
429-434
Sluijs, Appy
af623507-b795-4458-8ca5-cce783869a3d
Zeebe, Richard E.
a94a934c-a71d-465c-99f0-83067df5e50b
Bijl, Peter K.
fe283896-4066-490e-81b5-3212d00ef810
Bohaty, Steven M.
af9dbe78-8b9f-44f2-ba1d-20795837d2d1
Sluijs, Appy
af623507-b795-4458-8ca5-cce783869a3d
Zeebe, Richard E.
a94a934c-a71d-465c-99f0-83067df5e50b
Bijl, Peter K.
fe283896-4066-490e-81b5-3212d00ef810
Bohaty, Steven M.
af9dbe78-8b9f-44f2-ba1d-20795837d2d1

Sluijs, Appy, Zeebe, Richard E., Bijl, Peter K. and Bohaty, Steven M. (2013) A middle Eocene carbon cycle conundrum. Nature Geoscience, 6 (6), 429-434. (doi:10.1038/ngeo1807).

Record type: Article

Abstract

The Middle Eocene Climatic Optimum (MECO) was an approximately 500,000-year-long episode of widespread ocean–atmosphere warming about 40 million years ago, superimposed on a long-term middle Eocene cooling trend. It was marked by a rise in atmospheric CO2 concentrations, biotic changes and prolonged carbonate dissolution in the deep ocean. However, based on carbon cycle theory, a rise in atmospheric CO2 and warming should have enhanced continental weathering on timescales of the MECO. This should have in turn increased ocean carbonate mineral saturation state and carbonate burial in deep-sea sediments, rather than the recorded dissolution. We explore several scenarios using a carbon cycle model in an attempt to reconcile the data with theory, but these simulations confirm the problem. The model only produces critical MECO features when we invoke a sea-level rise, which redistributes carbonate burial from deep oceans to continental shelves and decreases shelf sediment weathering. Sufficient field data to assess this scenario is currently lacking. We call for an integrated approach to unravel Earth system dynamics during carbon cycle variations that are of intermediate timescales (several hundreds of thousands of years), such as the MECO.

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More information

Published date: May 2013
Organisations: Paleooceanography & Palaeoclimate

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 353147
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/353147
ISSN: 1752-0894
PURE UUID: 8233c364-5bf2-483a-bf0f-29513407dba4
ORCID for Steven M. Bohaty: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-1193-7398

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 30 May 2013 11:06
Last modified: 06 Jun 2018 12:39

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