Abstract

The Eocene was the warmest part of the Cenozoic, when warm climates extended into the Arctic, and substantive paleobotanical evidence indicates broadleaf and coniferous polar forests. Paleontological temperature proxies provide a basis for understanding Arctic early Paleogene climates; however, there is a lack of corresponding proxy data on precipitation. Both leaf physiognomic analysis and quantitative analysis of nearest living relatives of an Arctic macroflora indicate upper microthermal to lower mesothermal moist climates (mean annual temperature ∼13–15 °C; cold month mean temperature ∼4 °C; mean annual precipitation >120 cm/yr) for Axel Heiberg Island in the middle Eocene. Leaf-size analysis of Paleocene and Eocene Arctic floras demonstrates high precipitation for the Paleogene western and eastern Arctic. The predicted enormous volume of freshwater entering the Arctic Ocean as a result of northward drainage of a significant region of the Northern Hemisphere under a high-precipitation regime would have strongly affected Arctic Ocean salinity, potentially supporting Arctic Ocean Azolla blooms. High Paleogene precipitation around the Arctic Basin is consistent with high atmospheric humidity, which would have contributed significantly to polar, and global, Eocene warming.

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