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Climate of the Past An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 14, issue 7
Clim. Past, 14, 1035-1049, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Clim. Past, 14, 1035-1049, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 11 Jul 2018

Research article | 11 Jul 2018

Dynamics of sediment flux to a bathyal continental margin section through the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum

Tom Dunkley Jones1, Hayley R. Manners2,3, Murray Hoggett1, Sandra Kirtland Turner4, Thomas Westerhold5, Melanie J. Leng6, Richard D. Pancost7, Andy Ridgwell4, Laia Alegret8, Rob Duller9, and Stephen T. Grimes2 Tom Dunkley Jones et al.
  • 1School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK
  • 2School of Geography, Earth & Environmental Sciences, Plymouth University, Drake Circus, Plymouth, Devon, PL4 8AA, UK
  • 3School of Ocean and Earth Sciences, National Oceanography Centre, University of Southampton, Southampton, SO14 3ZH, UK
  • 4Department of Earth Sciences, University of California, Riverside, CA 92521, USA
  • 5MARUM – Center for Marine Environmental Sciences, University of Bremen, Leobener Strasse, 28359 Bremen, Germany
  • 6NERC Isotope Geosciences Facilities, British Geological Survey, Nottingham NG12 5GG, UK & Centre for Environmental Geochemistry, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, NG7 2RD, UK
  • 7Organic Geochemistry Unit, The Cabot Institute, School of Chemistry, University of Bristol, Bristol, BS8 1TS, UK
  • 8Departamento de Ciencias de la Tierra & Instituto Universitario de Ciencias Ambientales, Universidad de Zaragoza, 50009 Zaragoza, Spain
  • 9Department of Earth, Ocean and Ecological Sciences, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, L69 3GP, UK

Abstract. The response of the Earth system to greenhouse-gas-driven warming is of critical importance for the future trajectory of our planetary environment. Hyperthermal events – past climate transients with global-scale warming significantly above background climate variability – can provide insights into the nature and magnitude of these responses. The largest hyperthermal of the Cenozoic was the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM ∼ 56Ma). Here we present new high-resolution bulk sediment stable isotope and major element data for the classic PETM section at Zumaia, Spain. With these data we provide a new detailed stratigraphic correlation to other key deep-ocean and terrestrial PETM reference sections. With this new correlation and age model we are able to demonstrate that detrital sediment accumulation rates within the Zumaia continental margin section increased more than 4-fold during the PETM, representing a radical change in regional hydrology that drove dramatic increases in terrestrial-to-marine sediment flux. Most remarkable is that detrital accumulation rates remain high throughout the body of the PETM, and even reach peak values during the recovery phase of the characteristic PETM carbon isotope excursion (CIE). Using a series of Earth system model inversions, driven by the new Zumaia carbon isotope record, we demonstrate that the silicate weathering feedback alone is insufficient to recover the PETM CIE, and that active organic carbon burial is required to match the observed dynamics of the CIE. Further, we demonstrate that the period of maximum organic carbon sequestration coincides with the peak in detrital accumulation rates observed at Zumaia. Based on these results, we hypothesise that orbital-scale variations in subtropical hydro-climates, and their subsequent impact on sediment dynamics, may contribute to the rapid climate and CIE recovery from peak-PETM conditions.

Publications Copernicus
Short summary
The Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) is a transient global warming event associated with a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. Here we document a major increase in sediment accumulation rates on a subtropical continental margin during the PETM, likely due to marked changes in hydro-climates and sediment transport. These high sedimentation rates persist through the event and may play a key role in the removal of carbon from the atmosphere by the burial of organic carbon.
The Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) is a transient global warming event associated with...