27 Nov 2020

27 Nov 2020

Review status: a revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal CP.

Rapid and sustained environmental responses to global warming: The Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum in the eastern North Sea

Ella W. Stokke1, Morgan T. Jones1, Lars Riber2, Haflidi Haflidason3,4, Ivar Midtkandal2, Bo Pagh Schultz5, and Henrik H. Svensen1 Ella W. Stokke et al.
  • 1CEED, University of Oslo, P.O. Box 1028, 0315 Oslo, Norway
  • 2Department of Geosciences, University of Oslo, P.O. Box 1047, Blindern, NO 0316 Oslo, Norway
  • 3Department of Earth Science, University of Bergen, Allégt. 41, N-5007 Bergen, Norway
  • 4Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, Jahnebakken 5, 5007 Bergen, Norway
  • 5Museum Salling, Fur Museum, Nederby 28, 7884 Fur, Denmark

Abstract. The Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM; ~ 55.9 Ma) was a period of rapid and sustained global warming associated with significant carbon emissions. It coincided with the North Atlantic opening and emplacement of the North Atlantic Igneous Province (NAIP), suggesting a possible causal relationship. Only a very limited number of PETM studies exist from the North Sea, despite its ideal position for tracking the impact of both changing climate and the NAIP explosive and effusive activity. Here we present sedimentological, mineralogical, and geochemical proxy data from Denmark in the eastern North Sea, exploring the environmental response to the PETM. An increase in the chemical index of alteration and a kaolinite content up to 50 % of the clay fraction indicate an influx of terrestrial input shortly after the PETM onset and during the recovery, likely due to an intensified hydrological cycle. The volcanically derived minerals zeolite and smectite comprise up to 36 % and 90 % of the bulk and clay mineralogy respectively, highlighting the NAIPs importance as a sediment source for the North Sea and in increasing the rate of silicate weathering during the PETM. XRF element core scans also reveal possible hitherto unknown NAIP ash deposition both prior to and during the PETM. Geochemical proxies show that an anoxic environment persisted during the PETM body, possibly reaching euxinic conditions in the upper half with high concentrations of Mo (> 30 ppm), S (~ 4 wt %), and pyrite (~ 7 % of bulk), and low Th/U (< 2 ppm). At the same time, export productivity and organic matter burial reached its maximum intensity. These new records reveal that negative feedback mechanisms including silicate weathering and organic carbon drawdown rapidly began to counteract the carbon cycle perturbations and temperature increase, and remained active throughout the PETM. This study highlights the importance of shelf sections in tracking the environmental response to the PETM climatic changes, and as carbon sinks driving the PETM recovery.

Ella W. Stokke et al.

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Ella W. Stokke et al.

Ella W. Stokke et al.


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Short summary
In this paper, we present new sedimentological, geochemical, and mineralogical data exploring the environmental response to climatic and volcanic impact during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (~ 55.9 Ma; PETM). Our data suggests a rise in continental weathering and a shift to anoxic-exinic conditions. This indicates a rapid environmental response to changes in the carbon cycle and temperatures, and highlights the important role of shelf areas as carbon sinks driving the PETM recovery.