Enhanced terrestrial weathering/runoff and surface ocean carbonate production during the recovery stages of the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum

D. Clay Kelly, James C. Zachos, Timothy J. Bralower, Stephen A. Schellenberg

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The carbonate saturation profile of the oceans shoaled markedly during a transient global warming event known as the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum (PETM) (circa 55 Ma). The rapid release of large quantities of carbon into the ocean-atmosphere system is believed to have triggered this intense episode of dissolution along with a negative carbon isotope excursion (CIE). The brevity (120-220 kyr) of the PETM reflects the rapid enhancement of negative feedback mechanisms within Earth's exogenic carbon cycle that served the dual function of buffering ocean pH and reducing atmospheric greenhouse gas levels. Detailed study of the PETM stratigraphy from Ocean Drilling Program Site 690 (Weddell Sea) reveals that the CIE recovery period, which postdates the CIE onset by ∼80 kyr, is represented by an expanded (∼2.5 m thick) interval containing a unique planktic foraminiferal assemblage strongly diluted by coccolithophore carbonate. Collectively, the micropaleontological and sedimentological changes preserved within the CIE recovery interval reflect a transient state when ocean-atmosphere chemistry fostered prolific coccolithophore blooms that suppressed the local lysocline to relatively deeper depths. A prominent peak in the abundance of the clay mineral kaolinite is associated with the CIE recovery interval, indicating that continental weathering/runoff intensified at this time as well (Robert and Kennett, 1994). Such parallel stratigraphic changes are generally consonant with the hypothesis that enhanced continental weathering/runoff and carbonate precipitation helped sequester carbon during the PETM recovery period (e.g., Dickens et al., 1997; Zachos et al., 2005).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2005


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography
  • Palaeontology

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