A large and mostly volcanic carbon source drove the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (NERC grant NE/H017356/1)

Global warming during the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM, ~56 Ma) is commonly interpreted as being driven by massive destabilization of carbon from surficial sedimentary reservoirs. If correct, this has important implications for the amplification of future fossil fuel emissions via carbon-climate feedbacks. In our study we provided new paired records of boron and carbon isotope changes in the ocean that questions this long-held interpretation. Our data are implemented in an Earth system model to reconstruct the unfolding carbon cycle dynamics across the event. Strong evidence for a larger (>10,000 PgC) and on average isotopically heavier (> -17‰) carbon source leads us to identify volcanism associated with the North Atlantic Igneous Province as the main driver of the PETM. We also find that although organic carbon feedbacks with climate played a more minor role in driving the event than previously thought, organic matter burial was important in ultimately sequestering this carbon and driving the recovery of the system. Data presented in this data set comprise geochemical elemental, as well as boron, carbon and oxygen isotopic data from surface dwelling foraminifera Morozovella Subbotina. Alongside the boron isotopic data we also provide reconstructed surface water pH with corresponding uncertainties for our preferred pH reconstruction.
Geoscientific information
BGS Thesaurus of Geosciences:
Sea water
Carbon capture and storage
pH value
Carbon cycle
Boron isotopes
-8.8200, 47.4200, -8.8000, 47.4300
BAY OF BISCAY [id=2001371]
creation: 2017
2010 - 2015
GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel
Marcus Gutjahr
Wischhofstrasse 1-3, Kiel, 24148, Germany
email: not available
Role: point of contact

Data Quality

Data produced within the frame of NERC grant no. NE/H017356/1 cover the classic open northeast Atlantic DSDP Site 401 (47° 25.65’ N, 08° 48.62’ W, 2495 m). From this site, around 2 mg of the 250-300 mm size fraction of mixed-layer dweller Morozovella subbotinae were picked for the carbon, oxygen and boron isotopic analyses. Furthermore, over the studied interval, very high-resolution Oxygen 18 and Carbon 13 analyses of bulk carbonate were conducted to establish a revised age model for Site 401. Following the analysis and data reduction, generated surface ocean pH records were implemented into the GENIE Earth System Model to reconstruct the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration evolution over this event.
INSPIRE Implementing rules laying down technical arrangements for the interoperability and harmonisation of Mineral Resources
Commission Regulation (EU) No 1089/2010 of 23 November 2010 implementing Directive 2007/2/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards interoperability of spatial data sets and services


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Available under the Open Government Licence subject to the following acknowledgement accompanying the reproduced NERC materials "Contains NERC materials ©NERC [year]"
The dataset is made freely available for access, e.g. via the Internet. Either no third party data / information is contained in the dataset or BGS has secured written permission from the owner(s) of any third party data / information contained in the dataset to make the dataset freely accessible.

Metadata about metadata

British Geological Survey
Bowie,Joanne H
Environmental Science Centre,Keyworth, NOTTINGHAM, NG12 5GG, United Kingdom
tel: +44 115 936 3100
email: enquiries@bgs.ac.uk
Role: point of contact

Coupled Resource