Mid-latitude continental temperatures through the early Eocene in western Europe

Gordon N Inglis, Margaret Collinson, Walter Riegel, Volker Wilde, Alexander Farnsworth, Dan Lunt, Paul Valdes, Brittany Robson, Andrew C. Scott, Olaf Lenz, David Naafs, Rich Pancost

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)
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Branched glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (brGDGTs) are increasingly used to reconstruct mean annual air temperature (MAAT) during the early Paleogene. However, the application of this proxy in coal deposits is limited and brGDGTs have only been detected in immature coals (i.e. lignites). Using samples recovered from Schӧningen, Germany (~48°N palaeolatitude), we provide the first detailed study into the occurrence and distribution of brGDGTs through a sequence of early Eocene lignites and associated interbeds. BrGDGTs are abundant and present in every sample. In comparison to modern studies, changes in vegetation type do not appear to significantly impact brGDGT distributions; however, there are subtle differences between lignites - representing peat-forming environments - and siliciclastic nearshore marine interbed depositional environments. Using the most recent brGDGT temperature calibration (MATmr) developed for soils, we generate the first continental temperature record from western continental Europe through the early Eocene. Lignite-derived MAAT estimates range from 23 to 26°C while those derived from the nearshore marine interbeds exceed 20°C. These estimates are consistent with other mid-latitude environments and model simulations, indicating enhanced mid-latitude, early Eocene warmth. In the basal part of the section studied, warming is recorded in both the lignites (~2°C) and nearshore marine interbeds (~2-3°C). This culminates in a long-term temperature maximum, likely including the Early Eocene Climatic Optimum (EECO). Although this long-term warming trend is relatively well established in the marine realm, it has rarely been shown in terrestrial settings. Using a suite of model simulations we show that the magnitude of warming at Schӧningen is broadly consistent with a doubling of CO2, in agreement with late Paleocene and early Eocene pCO2 estimates
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)86-96
Number of pages11
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Early online date22 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2017


  • early Palaeogene
  • terrestrial temperature
  • GDGTs
  • lignite
  • coal
  • greenhouse climates


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