Alluvial record of an early Eocene hyperthermal within the Castissent Formation, the Pyrenees, Spain

Honegger, Louis; Adatte, Thierry; Spangenberg, Jorge E.; Rugenstein, Jeremy K. Caves; Poyatos-Moré, Miquel; Puigdefàbregas, Cai; Chanvry, Emmanuelle; Clark, Julian; Fildani, Andrea; Verrechia, Eric; Kouzmanov, Kalin; Harlaux, Matthieu; Castelltort, Sébastien

The late Palaeocene to the middle Eocene (57.5 to 46.5 Ma) recorded a total of 39 hyperthermals – periods of rapid global warming documented by prominent negative carbon isotope excursions (CIEs) as well as peaks in iron content – have been recognized in marine cores. Documenting how the Earth system responded to rapid climatic shifts during hyperthermals provides fundamental information to constrain climatic models. However, while hyperthermals have been well documented in the marine sedimentary record, only a few have been recognized and described in continental deposits, thereby limiting our ability to understand the effect and record of global warming on terrestrial systems. Hyperthermals in the continental record could be a powerful correlation tool to help connect marine and continental deposits, addressing issues of environmental signal propagation from land to sea. In this study, we generate new stable carbon isotope data (inline-formulaδ13C values) across the well-exposed and time-constrained fluvial sedimentary succession of the early Eocene Castissent Formation in the south central Pyrenees (Spain). The inline-formulaδ13C values of pedogenic carbonate reveal – similarly to the global records – stepped CIEs, culminating in a minimum inline-formulaδ13C value that we correlate with the hyperthermal event “U” at ca. 50 Ma. This general trend towards more negative values is most probably linked to higher primary productivity leading to an overall higher respiration of soil organic matter during these climatic events. The relative enrichment in immobile elements (Zr, Ti, Al) and higher estimates of mean annual precipitation together with the occurrence of small iron oxide and iron hydroxide nodules during the CIEs suggest intensification of chemical weathering and/or longer exposure of soils in a highly seasonal climate. The results show that even relatively small-scale hyperthermals compared with their prominent counterparts, such as PETM, ETM2, and ETM3, can leave a recognizable signature in the terrestrial stratigraphic record, providing insights into the dynamics of the carbon cycle in continental environments during these events.

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Honegger, Louis / Adatte, Thierry / Spangenberg, Jorge E. / et al: Alluvial record of an early Eocene hyperthermal within the Castissent Formation, the Pyrenees, Spain. 2020. Copernicus Publications.

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