16 Jan 2023
16 Jan 2023
Status: this preprint is open for discussion and under review for Climate of the Past (CP).

Tracing North Atlantic volcanism and seaway connectivity across the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM)

Morgan T. Jones1, Ella W. Stokke1, Alan D. Rooney2, Joost Frieling3, Philip A. E. Pogge von Strandmann4,5, David J. Wilson5, Henrik H. Svensen1, Sverre Planke1,6, Thierry Adatte7, Nicolas R. Thibault8, Madeleine L. Vickers1, Tamsin A. Mather3, Christian Tegner9, Valentin Zuchuat10, and Bo P. Schultz11 Morgan T. Jones et al.
  • 1Centre for Earth Evolution and Dynamics (CEED), University of Oslo, PO Box 1028 Blindern, 0315, Oslo, Norway
  • 2Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences, Yale University, PO Box 208109, New Haven CT 06520-8109, USA
  • 3Department of Earth Sciences, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3AN, U.K.
  • 4Mainz Isotope and Geochemistry Centre (MIGHTY), Institute of Geosciences, Johannes Gutenberg University, 55122 Mainz, Germany
  • 5London Geochemistry and Isotope Centre (LOGIC), Institute of Earth and Planetary Sciences , University College London and Birkbeck, University of London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK
  • 6Volcanic Basin Petroleum Research (VBPR AS), Høienhald, Blindernveien 5, N-0361 Oslo, Norway
  • 7Institute of Earth Sciences, University of Lausanne, 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland
  • 8Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, University of Copenhagen, 1350 Copenhagen K, Denmark
  • 9Department of Geoscience, Aarhus University, Høegh-Guldbergs Gade 2, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark
  • 10Palaeontology and Geological Institute, Aachen University, Bergbaugebäude 1140, Wüllnerstraße 2, Aachen, Germany
  • 11Museum Salling – Fur Museum, 7884 Fur, Denmark

Abstract. There is a temporal correlation between the peak activity of the North Atlantic Igneous Province (NAIP) and the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), suggesting that the NAIP may have initiated and/or prolonged this extreme warming event. However, corroborating a causal relationship is hampered by a scarcity of expanded sedimentary records that contain both climatic and volcanic proxies. One locality hosting such a record is Fur Island in Denmark, where an expanded pre- to post-PETM succession containing hundreds of NAIP ash layers is exceptionally well preserved. We compiled a range of environmental proxies, including mercury (Hg) anomalies, paleotemperature proxies, and lithium (Li) and osmium (Os) isotopes, to trace NAIP activity, hydrological changes, weathering, and seawater connectivity across this interval. Volcanic proxies suggest that NAIP activity was elevated before the PETM and appears to have peaked during the body of the δ13C excursion, but decreased considerably during the PETM recovery. This suggests that the acme in NAIP activity, dominated by flood basalt volcanism and thermogenic degassing from contact metamorphism, was likely confined to just ~200 kyr (ca. 56.0–55.8 Ma). The hundreds of thick basaltic ashes in the post-PETM strata likely represent a change from effusive to explosive activity, rather than an increase in NAIP activity. Detrital δ7Li values and clay abundances suggest that volcanic ash production increased basaltic reactive surface area, likely enhancing silicate weathering and atmospheric carbon sequestration in the early Eocene. Signals in lipid biomarkers and Os isotopes, traditionally used to trace paleotemperature and weathering changes, are used here to track seaway connectivity. These proxies indicate that the North Sea was rapidly cut off from the North Atlantic in under 12 kyr during the PETM recovery due to NAIP thermal uplift. Our findings reinforce the hypothesis that the emplacement of the NAIP had a profound and complex impact on Paleocene–Eocene climate, both directly through volcanic and thermogenic degassing, and indirectly by driving regional uplift and changing seaway connectivity.

Morgan T. Jones et al.

Status: open (until 13 Mar 2023)

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Morgan T. Jones et al.

Morgan T. Jones et al.


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Short summary
There are periods in Earth’s history when huge volumes of magma are erupted at the Earth’s surface. The gases released from volcanic eruptions and from sediments heated by the magma are believed to have caused severe climate changes in the geological past. We use a variety of volcanic and climatic tracers to assess how the North Atlantic Igneous Province (56–54 million years ago) affected the oceans and atmosphere during a period of extreme global warming.