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Surface-circulation change in the southwest Pacific Ocean across the Middle Eocene Climatic Optimum: Inferences from dinoflagellate cysts and biomarker paleothermometry

Surface-circulation change in the southwest Pacific Ocean across the Middle Eocene Climatic Optimum: Inferences from dinoflagellate cysts and biomarker paleothermometry
Surface-circulation change in the southwest Pacific Ocean across the Middle Eocene Climatic Optimum: Inferences from dinoflagellate cysts and biomarker paleothermometry
Global climate cooled from the early Eocene hothouse (∼52–50 Ma) to the latest Eocene (∼34 Ma). At the same time, the tectonic evolution of the Southern Ocean was characterized by the opening and deepening of circum-Antarctic gateways, which affected both surface- and deep-ocean circulation. The Tasmanian Gateway played a key role in regulating ocean throughflow between Australia and Antarctica. Southern Ocean surface currents through and around the Tasmanian Gateway have left recognizable tracers in the spatiotemporal distribution of plankton fossils, including organic-walled dinoflagellate cysts. This spatiotemporal distribution depends on both the physicochemical properties of the water masses and the path of surface-ocean currents. The extent to which climate and tectonics have influenced the distribution and composition of surface currents and thus fossil assemblages has, however, remained unclear. In particular, the contribution of climate change to oceanographic changes, superimposed on long-term and gradual changes induced by tectonics, is still poorly understood.

To disentangle the effects of tectonism and climate in the southwest Pacific Ocean, we target a climatic deviation from the long-term Eocene cooling trend: the Middle Eocene Climatic Optimum (MECO; ∼40 Ma). This 500 kyr phase of global warming was unrelated to regional tectonism, and thus provides a test case to investigate the ocean's physicochemical response to climate change alone. We reconstruct changes in surface-water circulation and temperature in and around the Tasmanian Gateway during the MECO through new palynological and organic geochemical records from the central Tasmanian Gateway (Ocean Drilling Program Site 1170), the Otway Basin (southeastern Australia), and the Hampden Beach section (New Zealand). Our results confirm that dinocyst communities track specific surface-ocean currents, yet the variability within the communities can be driven by superimposed temperature change. Together with published results from the east of the Tasmanian Gateway, our new results suggest a shift in surface-ocean circulation during the peak of MECO warmth. Simultaneous with high sea-surface temperatures in the Tasmanian Gateway area, pollen assemblages indicate warm temperate rainforests with paratropical elements along the southeastern margin of Australia. Finally, based on new age constraints, we suggest that a regional southeast Australian transgression might have been coincident with the MECO.
1814-9332
1667-1689
Cramwinckel, Margot J.
e467976c-be0c-47a5-a7eb-ecfe93048373
Woelders, Lineke
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Huurdeman, Emiel P.
e2bbfb77-e6bf-48a7-8cf0-3a169871844c
Peterse, Francien
471cf1d7-57d4-4954-ae8d-14fa03f0278b
Gallagher, Stephen J.
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Pross, Jörg
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Burgess, Catherine E.
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Reichart, Gert-jan
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Sluijs, Appy
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Bijl, Peter K.
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Cramwinckel, Margot J.
e467976c-be0c-47a5-a7eb-ecfe93048373
Woelders, Lineke
b2a0006e-8197-4b06-93fd-3e59f24327b6
Huurdeman, Emiel P.
e2bbfb77-e6bf-48a7-8cf0-3a169871844c
Peterse, Francien
471cf1d7-57d4-4954-ae8d-14fa03f0278b
Gallagher, Stephen J.
86c54557-ea8f-4082-910d-114a0720addf
Pross, Jörg
7c848424-852f-467b-90f0-19d4f8d4ae01
Burgess, Catherine E.
59b0ddda-5edb-43e9-8359-352e6ea5975d
Reichart, Gert-jan
f56639e3-dd16-4dfc-941e-d55302ef9ee5
Sluijs, Appy
af623507-b795-4458-8ca5-cce783869a3d
Bijl, Peter K.
fe283896-4066-490e-81b5-3212d00ef810

Cramwinckel, Margot J., Woelders, Lineke, Huurdeman, Emiel P., Peterse, Francien, Gallagher, Stephen J., Pross, Jörg, Burgess, Catherine E., Reichart, Gert-jan, Sluijs, Appy and Bijl, Peter K. (2020) Surface-circulation change in the southwest Pacific Ocean across the Middle Eocene Climatic Optimum: Inferences from dinoflagellate cysts and biomarker paleothermometry. Climate of the Past, 16 (5), 1667-1689. (doi:10.5194/cp-16-1667-2020).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Global climate cooled from the early Eocene hothouse (∼52–50 Ma) to the latest Eocene (∼34 Ma). At the same time, the tectonic evolution of the Southern Ocean was characterized by the opening and deepening of circum-Antarctic gateways, which affected both surface- and deep-ocean circulation. The Tasmanian Gateway played a key role in regulating ocean throughflow between Australia and Antarctica. Southern Ocean surface currents through and around the Tasmanian Gateway have left recognizable tracers in the spatiotemporal distribution of plankton fossils, including organic-walled dinoflagellate cysts. This spatiotemporal distribution depends on both the physicochemical properties of the water masses and the path of surface-ocean currents. The extent to which climate and tectonics have influenced the distribution and composition of surface currents and thus fossil assemblages has, however, remained unclear. In particular, the contribution of climate change to oceanographic changes, superimposed on long-term and gradual changes induced by tectonics, is still poorly understood.

To disentangle the effects of tectonism and climate in the southwest Pacific Ocean, we target a climatic deviation from the long-term Eocene cooling trend: the Middle Eocene Climatic Optimum (MECO; ∼40 Ma). This 500 kyr phase of global warming was unrelated to regional tectonism, and thus provides a test case to investigate the ocean's physicochemical response to climate change alone. We reconstruct changes in surface-water circulation and temperature in and around the Tasmanian Gateway during the MECO through new palynological and organic geochemical records from the central Tasmanian Gateway (Ocean Drilling Program Site 1170), the Otway Basin (southeastern Australia), and the Hampden Beach section (New Zealand). Our results confirm that dinocyst communities track specific surface-ocean currents, yet the variability within the communities can be driven by superimposed temperature change. Together with published results from the east of the Tasmanian Gateway, our new results suggest a shift in surface-ocean circulation during the peak of MECO warmth. Simultaneous with high sea-surface temperatures in the Tasmanian Gateway area, pollen assemblages indicate warm temperate rainforests with paratropical elements along the southeastern margin of Australia. Finally, based on new age constraints, we suggest that a regional southeast Australian transgression might have been coincident with the MECO.

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Accepted/In Press date: 16 June 2020
Published date: 1 September 2020

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 445136
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/445136
ISSN: 1814-9332
PURE UUID: c1dc6232-dae6-403d-8ed4-36fa75d65daa
ORCID for Margot J. Cramwinckel: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-6063-836X

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Date deposited: 23 Nov 2020 17:30
Last modified: 26 Nov 2021 03:22

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Contributors

Author: Lineke Woelders
Author: Emiel P. Huurdeman
Author: Francien Peterse
Author: Stephen J. Gallagher
Author: Jörg Pross
Author: Catherine E. Burgess
Author: Gert-jan Reichart
Author: Appy Sluijs
Author: Peter K. Bijl

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