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Nonmarine records of climatic change across the Eocene-Oligocene transition

Nathan D Sheldon
Nathan D Sheldon
Department of Geological Sciences, University of Michigan, 1100 N. University Ave., Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA
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April 01, 2009

The greenhouse-icehouse change across the Eocene-Oligocene transition and associated Oi-1 glaciation event is the most profound climatic change in Earth’s recent geological history. Marine reconstructions of the Oi-1 glaciation using foraminiferal δ18O isotopic compositions suggest that much of the change was associated with Antarctic ice growth rather than climatic change. Nonetheless, some cooling is expected to have occurred on land in addition to drier conditions associated with water tied up in the polar ice caps, and some recent results based on stable isotope analyses of bones support this viewpoint. Nonmarine paleoclimatic conditions (mean annual temperature, mean annual precipitation) may be quantitatively reconstructed using paleosols preserved in continental successions to test this general model. Results from Oregon and Nebraska suggest moderate drying and cooling, not as a stepwise change at the time of the Oi-1 glaciation, but as part of a long-term aridification and cooling event associated in part with emplacement of the Cascade Range. In contrast, intermontane Montana’s paleoprecipitation and paleotemperatures fluctuated on short-term (i.e., Milankovitch) time scales but on balance were both essentially unchanged by the Oi-1 glaciation. Results from Europe (UK, Spain) suggest a different pattern characterized by stable (i.e., unchanging) paleotemperatures in both localities and increasingly wet conditions in the UK. Taken together, these results indicate that (1) strongly regionalized climatic change was associated with the Oi-1 glaciation, (2) physiographic position with respect to orographic features played a key role in determining those regional climatic responses to the global event, and (3) there was little or no cooling on land associated with the Oi-1 glaciation.

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GSA Special Papers

The Late Eocene Earth—Hothouse, Icehouse, and Impacts

Christian Koeberl
Christian Koeberl
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Alessandro Montanari
Alessandro Montanari
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Geological Society of America
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Publication date:
April 01, 2009



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