Articles | Volume 10, issue 3
Research article
16 May 2014
Research article |  | 16 May 2014

Orbitally tuned timescale and astronomical forcing in the middle Eocene to early Oligocene

T. Westerhold, U. Röhl, H. Pälike, R. Wilkens, P. A. Wilson, and G. Acton

Abstract. Deciphering the driving mechanisms of Earth system processes, including the climate dynamics expressed as paleoceanographic events, requires a complete, continuous, and high-resolution stratigraphy that is very accurately dated. In this study, a robust astronomically calibrated age model was constructed for the middle Eocene to early Oligocene interval (31–43 Ma) in order to permit more detailed study of the exceptional climatic events that occurred during this time, including the middle Eocene climate optimum and the Eocene–Oligocene transition. A goal of this effort is to accurately date the middle Eocene to early Oligocene composite section cored during the Pacific Equatorial Age Transect (PEAT, IODP Exp. 320/321). The stratigraphic framework for the new timescale is based on the identification of the stable long eccentricity cycle in published and new high-resolution records encompassing bulk and benthic stable isotope, calibrated XRF core scanning, and magnetostratigraphic data from ODP Sites 171B-1052, 189-1172, 199-1218, and 207-1260 as well as IODP Sites 320-U1333, and 320-U1334 spanning magnetic polarity Chrons C12n to C20n. Subsequently orbital tuning of the records to the La2011 orbital solution was conducted. The resulting new timescale revises and refines the existing orbitally tuned age model and the geomagnetic polarity timescale from 31 to 43 Ma. The newly defined absolute age for the Eocene–Oligocene boundary validates the astronomical tuned age of 33.89 Ma identified at the Massignano, Italy, global stratotype section and point. The compilation of geochemical records of climate-controlled variability in sedimentation through the middle-to-late Eocene and early Oligocene demonstrates strong power in the eccentricity band that is readily tuned to the latest astronomical solution. Obliquity driven cyclicity is only apparent during 2.4 myr eccentricity cycle minima around 35.5, 38.3, and 40.1 Ma.