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Persistent environmental change after the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum in the eastern North Atlantic

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

The Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM; ∼56 Ma) is associated with abrupt climate change, carbon cycle perturbation, ocean acidification, as well as biogeographic shifts in marine and terrestrial biota that were largely reversed as the climatic transient waned. We report a clear exception to the behavior of the PETM as a reversing climatic transient in the eastern North Atlantic (Deep-Sea Drilling Project Site 401, Bay of Biscay) where the PETM initiates a greatly prolonged environmental change compared to other places on Earth where records exist. The observed environmental perturbation extended well past the δ13C recovery phase and up to 650 kyr after the PETM onset according to our extraterrestrial 3He-based age-model. We observe a strong decoupling of planktic foraminiferal δ18O and Mg/Ca values during the PETM δ13C recovery phase, which in combination with results from helium isotopes and clay mineralogy, suggests that the PETM triggered a hydrologic change in western Europe that increased freshwater flux and the delivery of weathering products to the eastern North Atlantic. This state change persisted long after the carbon-cycle perturbation had stopped. We hypothesize that either long-lived continental drainage patterns were altered by enhanced hydrological cycling induced by the PETM, or alternatively that the climate system in the hinterland area of Site 401 was forced into a new climate state that was not easily reversed in the aftermath of the PETM.
Journal: Earth and Planetary Science Letters
ISSN: 0012-821X
Volume: 394
Pages: 70 - 81
Publication year:2014