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Pronounced zonal heterogeneity in Eocene southern high-latitude sea surface temperatures
Douglas, P.M.J.; Affek, H.P.; Ivany, L.C.; Houben, A.J.P.; Sijp, W.P.; Sluijs, A.; Schouten, S.; Pagani, M. (2014). Pronounced zonal heterogeneity in Eocene southern high-latitude sea surface temperatures. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 111(18): 6582-6587.
In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. The Academy: Washington, D.C.. ISSN 0027-8424, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in  Authors 

Author keywords
    paleooceanography; clumped isotopes; organic geochemistry; climatemodeling; high-latitude climate

Authors  Top 
  • Douglas, P.M.J.
  • Affek, H.P.
  • Ivany, L.C.
  • Houben, A.J.P.
  • Sijp, W.P.
  • Sluijs, A.
  • Schouten, S., more
  • Pagani, M.

    Paleoclimate studies suggest that increased global warmth during the Eocene epoch was greatly amplified at high latitudes, a state that climate models cannot fully reproduce. However, proxy estimates of Eocene near-Antarctic sea surface temperatures (SSTs) have produced widely divergent results at similar latitudes, with SSTs above 20 degrees C in the southwest Pacific contrasting with SSTs between 5 and 15 degrees C in the South Atlantic. Validation of this zonal temperature difference has been impeded by uncertainties inherent to the individual paleotemperature proxies applied at these sites. Here, we present multiproxy data from Seymour Island, near the Antarctic Peninsula, that provides well-constrained evidence for annual SSTs of 10-17 degrees C (1 sigma SD) during the middle and late Eocene. Comparison of the same paleotemperature proxy at Seymour Island and at the East Tasman Plateau indicate the presence of a large and consistent middle-to-late Eocene SST gradient of similar to 7 degrees C between these two sites located at similar paleolatitudes. Intermediate-complexity climate model simulations suggest that enhanced oceanic heat transport in the South Pacific, driven by deep-water formation in the Ross Sea, was largely responsible for the observed SST gradient. These results indicate that very warm SSTs, in excess of 18 degrees C, did not extend uniformly across the Eocene southern high latitudes, and suggest that thermohaline circulation may partially control the distribution of high-latitude ocean temperatures in greenhouse climates. The pronounced zonal SST heterogeneity evident in the Eocene cautions against inferring past meridional temperature gradients using spatially limited data within given latitudinal bands.

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