Extreme warming of tropical waters during the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum

  • Aze T
  • Pearson P
  • Dickson A
 et al. 
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Abstract

The Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), ca. 56 Ma, was a major global environmental perturbation attributed to a rapid rise in the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Geochemical records of tropical sea-surface temperatures (SSTs) from the PETM are rare and are typically affected by post-depositional diagenesis. To circumvent this issue, we have analyzed oxygen isotope ratios ({delta}18O) of single specimens of exceptionally well-preserved planktonic foraminifera from the PETM in Tanzania ([~]19{degrees}S paleolatitude), which yield extremely low {delta}18O, down to 3 {degrees}C during the PETM and may have exceeded 40 {degrees}C. Calcareous plankton are absent from a large part of the Tanzania PETM record; extreme environmental change may have temporarily caused foraminiferal exclusion.

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