Arctic hydrology during global warming at the Palaeocene/Eocene thermal maximum


Mark Correction Pagani, Yale University
Nikolai Pedentchouk, Yale University
Matthew Huber, College of Science
Appy Sluijs, Universiteit Utrecht
Stefan Schouten, Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research
Henk Brinkhuis, Universiteit Utrecht
Jaap S. Sinninghe Damsté, Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research
Gerald R. Dickens, Rice University
Jan Backman, Stockholms universitet
Steve Clemens, Brown University
Thomas Cronin, United States Geological Survey
Frédérique Eynaud, Université de Bordeaux
Jérôme Gattacceca, Centre Européen de Recherche et d’Enseignement de Géosciences de l’Environnement
Martin Jakobsson, Stockholms universitet
Ric Jordan, Yamagata University
Michael Kaminski, University College London
John King, University of Rhode Island
Nalân Koc, Norsk Polarinstitutt
Nahysa C. Martinez, Boston University
David McInroy, British Geological Survey
Theodore C. Moore, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Matthew O'Regan, University of Rhode Island
Jonaotaro Onodera, Kyushu University
Heiko Pälike, University of Southampton
Brice Rea, University of Aberdeen
Domenico Rio, Università degli Studi di Padova
Tatsuhiko Sakamoto, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology
David C. Smith, University of Rhode Island
Kristen E.K. St John, James Madison University
Itsuki Suto, University of Tsukuba
Noritoshi Suzuki, Tohoku University
Kozo Takahashi, Kyushu University
Mahito Watanabe, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology
Masanobu Yamamoto, Hokkaido University

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The Palaeocene/Eocene thermal maximum represents a period of rapid, extreme global warming ∼55 million years ago, superimposed on an already warm world. This warming is associated with a severe shoaling of the ocean calcite compensation depth and a >2.5 per mil negative carbon isotope excursion in marine and soil carbonates. Together these observations indicate a massive release of13C-depleted carbon and greenhouse-gas-induced warming. Recently, sediments were recovered from the central Arctic Ocean, providing the first opportunity to evaluate the environmental response at the North Pole at this time. Here we present stable hydrogen and carbon isotope measurements of terrestrial-plant- and aquatic-derived n-alkanes that record changes in hydrology, including surface water salinity and precipitation, and the global carbon cycle. Hydrogen isotope records are interpreted as documenting decreased rainout during moisture transport from lower latitudes and increased moisture delivery to the Arctic at the onset of the Palaeocene/Eocene thermal maximum, consistent with predictions of poleward storm track migrations during global warming. The terrestrial-plant carbon isotope excursion (about -4.5 to -6 per mil) is substantially larger than those of marine carbonates. Previously, this offset was explained by the physiological response of plants to increases in surface humidity. But this mechanism is not an effective explanation in this wet Arctic setting, leading us to hypothesize that the true magnitude of the excursion - and associated carbon input - was greater than originally surmised. Greater carbon release and strong hydrological cycle feedbacks may help explain the maintenance of this unprecedented warmth. © 2006 Nature Publishing Group.

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