The Paleocene epoch was characterized by global climate fluctuations and major carbon-cycle perturbations. During the greenhouse climate that characterized the early Cenozoic, a short-lived late Paleocene global cooling event has been recognized from marine records. However, the response of the terrestrial system to this climate cooling event is poorly understood. Here, we present major- and trace-element analyses, iron speciation systematics, carbonate carbon isotope data, and mineralogical observations from lacustrine sediments in Member II of the Paleocene Funing Formation (E1f2), utilizing well-preserved drill core from the Subei Basin, eastern China. Both chemical (chemical index of alteration [CIA], Al/K ratios) and mineralogical (mineralogical index of alteration, clay/feldspar ratios) proxies yield consistent weathering and paleoclimatic interpretations, suggesting a transition from cool and arid climatic conditions to warmer and more humid climatic conditions. Correlation of carbon isotopes between the Subei Basin and deep-sea records implies that this terrestrial setting records the short-lived Paleocene climate cooling event. The combination of climate records and paleosalinity proxies (B/Ga and S/total organic carbon [TOC]) indicates a relatively high-salinity water column (brackish to saline) under cool and arid climatic conditions in the Subei Basin, suggesting that elevated salinity was likely produced via net-evaporative conditions, rather than marine incursions. A shift toward less saline brackish conditions up section reflects an increase in precipitation and freshwater runoff under warmer and more humid climatic conditions. Iron speciation and redox-sensitive trace-metal systematics reveal fluctuating redox conditions, from oxic through to anoxic ferruginous, but with the distinct development of better ventilated conditions as freshwater inputs increased under more humid conditions. Our findings demonstrate the sensitivity of terrestrial climate to the late Paleocene climate cooling event and further reveal the chemical response of a lacustrine setting to a cooling episode in a greenhouse world.

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