Subtropical Arctic Ocean temperatures during the Palaeocene/Eocene thermal maximum


Appy Sluijs, Universiteit Utrecht
Stefan Schouten, Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research
Mark Pagani, Yale University
Martijn Woltering, 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
Matthew Huber, College of Science
Gert Jan Reichart, Universiteit Utrecht
Ruediger Stein, Alfred-Wegener-Institut Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung
Jens Matthiessen, Alfred-Wegener-Institut Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung
Lucas J. Lourens, Universiteit Utrecht
Nikolai Pedentchouk, Yale University
Jan Backman, Stockholms universitet
Kathryn Moran, University of Rhode Island
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

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The Palaeocene/Eocene thermal maximum, ∼55 million years ago, was a brief period of widespread, extreme climatic warming, that was associated with massive atmospheric greenhouse gas input. Although aspects of the resulting environmental changes are well documented at low latitudes, no data were available to quantify simultaneous changes in the Arctic region. Here we identify the Palaeocene/Eocene thermal maximum in a marine sedimentary sequence obtained during the Arctic Coring Expedition. We show that sea surface temperatures near the North Pole increased from ∼18°C to over 23°C during this event. Such warm values imply the absence of ice and thus exclude the influence of ice-albedo feedbacks on this Arctic warming. At the same time, sea level rose while anoxic and euxinic conditions developed in the ocean's bottom waters and photic zone, respectively. Increasing temperature and sea level match expectations based on palaeoclimate model simulations, but the absolute polar temperatures that we derive before, during and after the event are more than 10°C warmer than those model-predicted. This suggests that higher-than-modern greenhouse gas concentrations must have operated in conjunction with other feedback mechanisms-perhaps polar stratospheric clouds or hurricane-induced ocean mixing-to amplify early Palaeogene polar temperatures. © 2006 Nature Publishing Group.

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