Articles | Volume 14, issue 3
Clim. Past, 14, 255–270, 2018
Clim. Past, 14, 255–270, 2018

Research article 05 Mar 2018

Research article | 05 Mar 2018

Astronomical tunings of the Oligocene–Miocene transition from Pacific Ocean Site U1334 and implications for the carbon cycle

Helen M. Beddow1, Diederik Liebrand2,3, Douglas S. Wilson4, Frits J. Hilgen1, Appy Sluijs1, Bridget S. Wade5, and Lucas J. Lourens1 Helen M. Beddow et al.
  • 1Department of Earth Sciences, Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University, Utrecht, the Netherlands
  • 2PalaeoClimate.Science, Utrecht (province), the Netherlands
  • 3MARUM – Center for Marine Environmental Science, University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany
  • 4Department of Earth Science, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA, USA
  • 5Department of Earth Sciences, Faculty of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, University College London, Gower Street, London, UK

Abstract. Astronomical tuning of sediment sequences requires both unambiguous cycle pattern recognition in climate proxy records and astronomical solutions, as well as independent information about the phase relationship between these two. Here we present two different astronomically tuned age models for the Oligocene–Miocene transition (OMT) from Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Site U1334 (equatorial Pacific Ocean) to assess the effect tuning has on astronomically calibrated ages and the geologic timescale. These alternative age models (roughly from  ∼ 22 to  ∼ 24 Ma) are based on different tunings between proxy records and eccentricity: the first age model is based on an aligning CaCO3 weight (wt%) to Earth's orbital eccentricity, and the second age model is based on a direct age calibration of benthic foraminiferal stable carbon isotope ratios (δ13C) to eccentricity. To independently test which tuned age model and associated tuning assumptions are in best agreement with independent ages based on tectonic plate-pair spreading rates, we assign the tuned ages to magnetostratigraphic reversals identified in deep-marine magnetic anomaly profiles. Subsequently, we compute tectonic plate-pair spreading rates based on the tuned ages. The resultant alternative spreading-rate histories indicate that the CaCO3 tuned age model is most consistent with a conservative assumption of constant, or linearly changing, spreading rates. The CaCO3 tuned age model thus provides robust ages and durations for polarity chrons C6Bn.1n–C7n.1r, which are not based on astronomical tuning in the latest iteration of the geologic timescale. Furthermore, it provides independent evidence that the relatively large (several 10 000 years) time lags documented in the benthic foraminiferal isotope records relative to orbital eccentricity constitute a real feature of the Oligocene–Miocene climate system and carbon cycle. The age constraints from Site U1334 thus indicate that the delayed responses of the Oligocene–Miocene climate–cryosphere system and (marine) carbon cycle resulted from highly non-linear feedbacks to astronomical forcing.

Short summary
We present two astronomy-based timescales for climate records from the Pacific Ocean. These records range from 24 to 22 million years ago, a time period when Earth was warmer than today and the only land ice was located on Antarctica. We use tectonic plate-pair spreading rates to test the two timescales, which shows that the carbonate record yields the best timescale. In turn, this implies that Earth’s climate system and carbon cycle responded slowly to changes in incoming solar radiation.