Journal cover Journal topic
Climate of the Past An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Research article
16 Nov 2017
Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Climate of the Past (CP).
Orbital forcing of terrestrial hydrology, weathering and carbon sequestration during the Palaeocene-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 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
Abstract. The response of the Earth System to greenhouse-gas driven warming is of critical importance for the future trajectory of our planetary environment. Hypethermal events – past climate transients with significant global-scale warming – can provide insights into the nature and magnitude of these responses. The largest hyperthermal of the Cenozoic was the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM ~ 56 Ma). Here we present a new high-resolution cyclostratigraphy for the classic PETM section at Zumaia, Spain. With this new age model we are able to demonstrate that detrital sediment accumulation rates within this continental margin section increased more than four-fold during the PETM, representing a radical change in regional hydrology that drove dramatic increases in terrestrial to marine sediment flux. During the body of the PETM, orbital-scale variations in bulk sediment Si/Fe ratios are evidence for the continued orbital pacing of sediment erosion and transport processes, most likely linked to precession controls on sub-tropical hydroclimates. 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, 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, that the period of maximum organic carbon sequestration coincides with the peak in detrital accumulation rates observed at Zumaia. Based on these results, we hypothesize that precession controls on tropical and sub-tropical hydroclimates, and the sediment dynamics associated with this variation, play a significant role in the timing of the rapid climate and CIE recovery from peak-PETM conditions.

Citation: Dunkley Jones, T., Manners, H. R., Hoggett, M., Kirtland Turner, S., Westerhold, T., Leng, M. J., Pancost, R. D., Ridgwell, A., Alegret, L., Duller, R., and Grimes, S. T.: Orbital forcing of terrestrial hydrology, weathering and carbon sequestration during the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, Clim. Past Discuss.,, in review, 2017.
Tom Dunkley Jones et al.
Tom Dunkley Jones et al.
Tom Dunkley Jones et al.


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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 sub-tropical continental margin during the PETM, likely due to marked changes in hydroclimates 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...