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

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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 Schöningen, 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 central-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 Schöningen is broadly consistent with a doubling of CO2, in agreement with late Paleocene and early Eocene pCO2 estimates.




Inglis, G. N., Collinson, M. E., Riegel, W., Wilde, V., Farnsworth, A., Lunt, D. J., … Pancost, R. D. (2017). Mid-latitude continental temperatures through the early Eocene in western Europe. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 460, 86–96. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.epsl.2016.12.009

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