Abstract

The early Eocene (ca. 56–47.8 Ma) was an interval of exceptional warmth with reduced pole-to-equator temperature gradients. Climate proxies indicate mean annual air temperatures (MATs) and sea-surface temperatures (SSTs) exceeding 8–18 °C and frost-free, mild winters in polar areas, features that have proven difficult to reproduce with the most elaborate climate models. A full appraisal of the early Eocene polar climate has been, however, limited by possible seasonal biases associated with geochemical proxies and the lack of data from the vast Eurasian Arctic. Here we present multiproxy data from lower-middle Eocene coastal plain sediments of the New Siberian Islands (Russia) showing that taxodioid Cupressaceae, palms, and the mangrove Avicennia grew in Arctic Siberia above 72°N under air temperatures averaging 16–21 °C annually and 5.5–14 °C in winter. Kaolinite contents are exceptionally high (up to 60% of clay assemblages) and comparable to those found in present-day subtropical soils formed under high mean annual precipitation (MAP >1000 mm) and warm (MAT >15 °C) conditions. The Avicennia pollen records the northernmost mangrove growth ever documented and indicates early Eocene SSTs exceeding 13 °C in winter and 18 °C in summer. Considering the high MAP estimated for Arctic Siberia and other pan-Arctic landmasses, we propose that the heat from warm river waters draining into the Arctic might have amplified early Eocene polar warmth. Our results provide the first climate constraints for the early Eocene of Arctic Siberia and support the view that most climate models underestimate polar warming in greenhouse conditions.

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