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Climate of the Past An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 20 Aug 2019

Submitted as: research article | 20 Aug 2019

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This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Climate of the Past (CP).

Alluvial record of an early Eocene hyperthermal, Castissent Formation, Pyrenees, Spain

Louis Honegger1, Thierry Adatte2, Jorge E. Spangenberg3, Jeremy K. Caves Rugenstein4, Miquel Poyatos-Moré5, Cai Puigdefàbregas6, Emmanuelle Chanvry7, Julian Clark8, Andrea Fildani8, Eric Verrechia2, Kalin Kouzmanov1, Matthieu Harlaux1, and Sébastien Castelltort1 Louis Honegger et al.
  • 1Department of Earth Sciences, University of Geneva, Rue des Maraîchers 13, 1205 Geneva, Switzerland
  • 2Institute of Earth Sciences, Géopolis, University of Lausanne, 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland
  • 3Institute of Earth Surface Dynamics (IDYST), Géopolis, University of Lausanne, 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland
  • 4Geological Institute, ETH Zürich, Sonneggstrasse 5NO E61, 8092 Zürich, Switzerland
  • 5Department of Geosciences, University of Oslo, Sem Sælands vei 1, 0371 Oslo, Norway
  • 6Department of Earth and Ocean Dynamics, University of Barcelona, C/ Martí i Franquès, s/n, 08028 Barcelona, Spain
  • 7University of Poitiers & CNRS,IC2MP,INC, 86000 Poitiers, France
  • 8Equinor Research Center, 6300 Bridge Point Parkway, Building 2, Suite 100, Austin, Texas, USA

Abstract. During the late Palaeocene to the middle Eocene (57.5 to 46.5 Ma) a total of 39 hyperthermals – periods of rapid global warming recorded by prominent negative carbon isotope excursions (NCIEs) as well as peaks in iron content – have been recognized in marine cores. Understanding how the Earth system responded to rapid warming during these hyperthermals is fundamental because they represent potential analogues, in the geological record, to the ongoing anthropogenic modification of global climate. However, while hyperthermals have been well documented in the marine sedimentary record, only few have been recognized and described in continental deposits, thereby limiting our ability to understand the effect and record of global warming on terrestrial surficial systems. Hyperthermals in the continental record could be a powerful correlation tool to help connect marine and continental records, addressing issues of environmental signal propagation from land to sea. In this study, we generate new stable carbon isotope data (δ13C values) across the well-exposed and time-constrained fluvial sedimentary succession of the early Eocene Castissent Formation in the South-Central Pyrenees (Spain). The δ13C values of pedogenic carbonate reveal – similarly to the global records – stepped NCIEs, culminating in a minimum δ13C value that we correlate with the hyperthermal event U at ca. 50 Ma. This general trend towards more negative values is most probably linked to higher primary productivity leading to an overall higher respiration of soil organic matter during these climatic events. The relative enrichment in immobile elements (Zr, Ti, Al) and higher estimates of mean annual precipitation together with the occurrence of small iron-oxides/hydroxides nodules during the NCIEs suggest intensification of chemical weathering and/or longer exposure of soils in a highly seasonal climate. The results show that even relatively small-scale hyperthermals compared with their prominent counterparts, such as PETM, ETM2 and 3, have left a recognizable trace in the stratigraphic record, providing insights into the dynamics of the carbon cycle in continental environments during these events.

Louis Honegger et al.
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Louis Honegger et al.
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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
A geochemical study of a continental section reveals a rapid global warming event (hyperthermal “U”), occurring ca. 50 Ma ago, only described until now in cores of marine sediments. Studying these events is an important way to reconstruct and thus predict Earth’s system feedback to such climatic perturbations. Our results suggest that continental deposits can be high-resolution recorders of these warmings. They also give an insight on the climatic conditions occurring during at the time.
A geochemical study of a continental section reveals a rapid global warming event (hyperthermal...