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Paleoaltimetry; a review of thermodynamic methods

Chris E. Forest
Paleoaltimetry; a review of thermodynamic methods (in Paleoaltimetry; geochemical and thermodynamic approaches, Matthew J. Kohn (editor))
Reviews in Mineralogy and Geochemistry (October 2007) 66 (1): 173-193


This review presents the use of conserved thermodynamic variables to estimate paleoaltitudes. The method based on conservation of moist static energy (the combined internal, latent heat, and gravitational potential energy of moist air) is discussed. This method exploits the physical relation between of the wind fields and the spatial and vertical distributions of both temperature and humidity. Given the climatological distributions of these three atmospheric fields, the method identifies moist enthalpy (the combined internal and latent heat energies of air) as a thermodynamic variable that varies with height in the atmosphere in a predictable fashion. To use this method, the major requirements are: (1) a priori knowledge of the spatial distribution of moist static energy for the paleoclimate and (2) the ability to estimate moist-enthalpy in the paleo-environment for two isochronous locations: one at sea level, the other at some unknown elevation. As presented here, the method incorporates basic physical principles of atmospheric science and inferences of paleoclimates from plant leaf physiognomy. Assuming that expected errors estimated from present-day relationships between physiognomy and enthalpy apply to ancient climates and fossil leaves, an uncertainty estimate of + or -910 m in the paleoaltitude difference between two isochronous fossil assemblage locations can be assessed.

ISSN: 1529-6466
EISSN: 1943-2666
Serial Title: Reviews in Mineralogy and Geochemistry
Serial Volume: 66
Serial Issue: 1
Title: Paleoaltimetry; a review of thermodynamic methods
Title: Paleoaltimetry; geochemical and thermodynamic approaches
Author(s): Forest, Chris E.
Author(s): Kohn, Matthew J.editor
Affiliation: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Center for Global Change Science, Oxford, MA, United States
Affiliation: University of South Carolina, Department of Geological Sciences, Columbia, SC, United States
Pages: 173-193
Published: 200710
Text Language: English
Publisher: Mineralogical Society of America and Geochemical Society, Washington, DC, United States
References: 55
Accession Number: 2007-124244
Categories: Geomorphology
Document Type: Serial
Bibliographic Level: Analytic
Illustration Description: illus. incl. 4 tables
Country of Publication: United States
Secondary Affiliation: GeoRef, Copyright 2017, American Geosciences Institute. Abstract, copyright, Mineralogical Society of America. Reference includes data from GeoScienceWorld, Alexandria, VA, United States
Update Code: 200750
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