Skip to main content
eScholarship
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Riverside

UC Riverside Previously Published Works bannerUC Riverside

Paleocene/Eocene carbon feedbacks triggered by volcanic activity.

Abstract

The Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) was a period of geologically-rapid carbon release and global warming ~56 million years ago. Although modelling, outcrop and proxy records suggest volcanic carbon release occurred, it has not yet been possible to identify the PETM trigger, or if multiple reservoirs of carbon were involved. Here we report elevated levels of mercury relative to organic carbon-a proxy for volcanism-directly preceding and within the early PETM from two North Sea sedimentary cores, signifying pulsed volcanism from the North Atlantic Igneous Province likely provided the trigger and subsequently sustained elevated CO2. However, the PETM onset coincides with a mercury low, suggesting at least one other carbon reservoir released significant greenhouse gases in response to initial warming. Our results support the existence of 'tipping points' in the Earth system, which can trigger release of additional carbon reservoirs and drive Earth's climate into a hotter state.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View