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Middle Eocene greenhouse climate instability

Middle Eocene greenhouse climate instability
Middle Eocene greenhouse climate instability
Understanding warm climate states is increasingly important as projections of anthropogenic climate change indicate atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations in the coming century not previously seen on Earth for tens of millions of years. The Eocene (~56-34 Ma) is a critical period in the long-term Cenozoic climate evolution, encompassing the transition from widespread greenhouse warmth and high atmospheric carbon dioxide levels pervasive during the early Eocene to an icehouse world with major Antarctic ice sheets and cooler temperatures. Increasingly, it has become apparent that global climate during this transition was not gradual; the middle Eocene is characterized by significant short-term climate variability with recent findings including both transient warming and cooling events. However, the timing, and nature of many of the climate fluctuations during this interval are poorly constrained. To this end, this thesis aims to better characterize the long-term background trends and investigate the nature of short-term transient perturbations during the greenhouse climate of the middle Eocene.

In Chapter 2, new nine million year long benthic foraminiferal stable isotope records (~46 to 38 Ma) generated from recently drilled equatorial Pacific sediments with excellent age control are presented. These are the first records to document that the seven enigmatic equatorial Pacific Carbon Accumulation Events (CAEs) are not associated with transient global cooling and/or glaciation events, as previously hypothesized. Further, new carbonate accumulation records in Chapter 3 provide the first robust evidence for the presence of CAEs 3 and 4 in the Atlantic basin. Together, these findings constrain the feasibility of potential CAE forcing mechanisms and imply that there are only two viable mechanisms; (1) solute flux from continental weathering, and (2) increased organic carbon burial from marine assemblage changes.

A new compilation (including new and published records) of carbonate accumulation records from a paleodepth transect (2-4 km) in the Atlantic and Pacific basins provides the first multi-basin look at deep-sea carbonate burial at high temporal resolution across the Middle Eocene Climatic Optimum global warming event (~40 Ma). New CCD and lysocline interpretations reveal for the first time that multiple rapid fluctuations (<100 kyrs) and extreme lysocline shoaling (reaching >2 km water depth) are superimposed on long-term trends. This finding implies multiple pulses of carbon input to the ocean–atmosphere system during the MECO and provides critical time constraints to potential forcing mechanisms, which have so far remained elusive.

In the final Chapter 4, new lithological and geochemical data from the Atlantic and Pacific Basins are presented which reveal the global nature of the transient ‘C19r event’ (~41.5 Ma) and confirm that the event meets the criteria to be defined as a ‘hyperthermal’. Further, analyses of the stable isotope datasets suggests that the C19r event was not exceptional and is one (albeit the most extreme) of a large number of transient ‘warming’ events throughout the middle Eocene, adding to the growing body of data implying that hyperthermal occurrence is pervasive outside of the very warm late Paleocene and early Eocene.
University of Southampton
Kordesch, Wendy E.C.
87c722f8-74fe-4ba4-b5e9-7018c1dff2a1
Kordesch, Wendy E.C.
87c722f8-74fe-4ba4-b5e9-7018c1dff2a1
Palike, Heiko
b9bf7798-ad8c-479b-8487-dd9a30a61fa5

Kordesch, Wendy E.C. (2016) Middle Eocene greenhouse climate instability. University of Southampton, Ocean & Earth Science, Doctoral Thesis, 248pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

Understanding warm climate states is increasingly important as projections of anthropogenic climate change indicate atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations in the coming century not previously seen on Earth for tens of millions of years. The Eocene (~56-34 Ma) is a critical period in the long-term Cenozoic climate evolution, encompassing the transition from widespread greenhouse warmth and high atmospheric carbon dioxide levels pervasive during the early Eocene to an icehouse world with major Antarctic ice sheets and cooler temperatures. Increasingly, it has become apparent that global climate during this transition was not gradual; the middle Eocene is characterized by significant short-term climate variability with recent findings including both transient warming and cooling events. However, the timing, and nature of many of the climate fluctuations during this interval are poorly constrained. To this end, this thesis aims to better characterize the long-term background trends and investigate the nature of short-term transient perturbations during the greenhouse climate of the middle Eocene.

In Chapter 2, new nine million year long benthic foraminiferal stable isotope records (~46 to 38 Ma) generated from recently drilled equatorial Pacific sediments with excellent age control are presented. These are the first records to document that the seven enigmatic equatorial Pacific Carbon Accumulation Events (CAEs) are not associated with transient global cooling and/or glaciation events, as previously hypothesized. Further, new carbonate accumulation records in Chapter 3 provide the first robust evidence for the presence of CAEs 3 and 4 in the Atlantic basin. Together, these findings constrain the feasibility of potential CAE forcing mechanisms and imply that there are only two viable mechanisms; (1) solute flux from continental weathering, and (2) increased organic carbon burial from marine assemblage changes.

A new compilation (including new and published records) of carbonate accumulation records from a paleodepth transect (2-4 km) in the Atlantic and Pacific basins provides the first multi-basin look at deep-sea carbonate burial at high temporal resolution across the Middle Eocene Climatic Optimum global warming event (~40 Ma). New CCD and lysocline interpretations reveal for the first time that multiple rapid fluctuations (<100 kyrs) and extreme lysocline shoaling (reaching >2 km water depth) are superimposed on long-term trends. This finding implies multiple pulses of carbon input to the ocean–atmosphere system during the MECO and provides critical time constraints to potential forcing mechanisms, which have so far remained elusive.

In the final Chapter 4, new lithological and geochemical data from the Atlantic and Pacific Basins are presented which reveal the global nature of the transient ‘C19r event’ (~41.5 Ma) and confirm that the event meets the criteria to be defined as a ‘hyperthermal’. Further, analyses of the stable isotope datasets suggests that the C19r event was not exceptional and is one (albeit the most extreme) of a large number of transient ‘warming’ events throughout the middle Eocene, adding to the growing body of data implying that hyperthermal occurrence is pervasive outside of the very warm late Paleocene and early Eocene.

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Kordesch Doctoral Thesis - Version of Record
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More information

Published date: August 2016
Organisations: University of Southampton, Paleooceanography & Palaeoclimate

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 402327
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/402327
PURE UUID: 0680ee57-d207-47da-ac04-bdf5822c5d64

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Date deposited: 15 Nov 2016 16:42
Last modified: 17 Dec 2019 06:33

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