Abstract

During the early Paleogene, climate in continental interiors is thought to have been warmer and more equable than today, but estimates of seasonal temperature variations during this period are limited. Global and regional climate models of the Paleogene predict cooler temperatures for continental interiors than are implied by proxy data and predict a seasonal range of temperature that is similar to today. Here, we present a record of summer temperatures derived from carbonate clumped isotope thermometry of paleosol carbonates from Paleogene deposits in the Bighorn Basin, Wyoming (United States). Our summer temperature estimates are ∼18 °C greater than mean annual temperature estimated from analysis of fossil leaves. When coupled, these two records yield a seasonal range of temperature similar to that in the region today, with winter temperatures that are near freezing. These data are consistent with our high-resolution climate model output for the Early Eocene in the Bighorn Basin. We suggest that temperatures in continental interiors during the early Paleogene greenhouse were warmer in all seasons, but not more equable than today. If generally true, this removes one of the long-standing paradoxes in our understanding of terrestrial climate dynamics under greenhouse conditions.

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