16 Jan 2023
 | 16 Jan 2023

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

Morgan T. Jones, Ella W. Stokke, Alan D. Rooney, Joost Frieling, Philip A. E. Pogge von Strandmann, David J. Wilson, Henrik H. Svensen, Sverre Planke, Thierry Adatte, Nicolas R. Thibault, Madeleine L. Vickers, Tamsin A. Mather, Christian Tegner, Valentin Zuchuat, and Bo P. Schultz

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: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • CC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-36', Nina M. Papadomanolaki, 22 Feb 2023
    • AC2: 'Reply on CC1', Morgan Jones, 10 May 2023
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-36', Nina Papadomanolaki, 24 Feb 2023
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Morgan Jones, 10 May 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-36', Marcus Gutjahr, 27 Mar 2023
    • AC3: 'Reply on RC2', Morgan Jones, 10 May 2023
  • CC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-36 (Jones et al.) by Gernon et al.', Thomas Gernon, 22 May 2023
    • AC4: 'Reply on CC2', Morgan Jones, 24 May 2023

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.