Extreme warming of tropical waters during the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum

Tracy Aze, Paul N Pearson, Alex J Dickson, Marcus P S Badger, PR Bown, Rich D Pancost, Samantha J Gibbs, Brian T Huber, Melanie Leng, Angela J Coe, Anthony S Cohen, Gavin L Foster

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The Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), ca. 56 Ma, was a major global environmental perturbation attributed to a rapid rise in the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Geochemical records of tropical sea-surface temperatures (SSTs) from the PETM are rare and are typically affected by post-depositional diagenesis. To circumvent this issue, we have analyzed oxygen isotope ratios (δ18O) of single specimens of exceptionally well-preserved planktonic foraminifera from the PETM in Tanzania (~19°S paleolatitude), which yield extremely low δ18O, down to <–5‰. After accounting for changes in seawater chemistry and pH, we estimate from the foraminifer δ18O that tropical SSTs rose by >3 °C during the PETM and may have exceeded 40 °C. Calcareous plankton are absent from a large part of the Tanzania PETM record; extreme environmental change may have temporarily caused foraminiferal exclusion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)739-742
Number of pages4
Issue number9
Early online date25 Jul 2014
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2014

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    Aze, T., Pearson, P. N., Dickson, A. J., Badger, M. P. S., Bown, PR., Pancost, R. D., Gibbs, S. J., Huber, B. T., Leng, M., Coe, A. J., Cohen, A. S., & Foster, G. L. (2014). Extreme warming of tropical waters during the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum. Geology, 42(9), 739-742. https://doi.org/10.1130/G35637.1