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A Transient Rise in Tropical Sea Surface Temperature during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum

James C. Zachos, Michael W. Wara, Steven Bohaty, Margaret L. Delaney, Maria Rose Petrizzo, Amanda Brill, Timothy J. Bralower and Isabella Premoli-Silva
Science
New Series, Vol. 302, No. 5650 (Nov. 28, 2003), pp. 1551-1554
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3835783
Page Count: 4
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A Transient Rise in Tropical Sea Surface Temperature during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum
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Abstract

The Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) has been attributed to a rapid rise in greenhouse gas levels. If so, warming should have occurred at all latitudes, although amplified toward the poles. Existing records reveal an increase in high-latitude sea surface temperatures (SSTs) ($8\textdegree to 10\textdegree C$) and in bottom water temperatures ($4\textdegree to 5\textdegree C$). To date, however, the character of the tropical SST response during this event remains unconstrained. Here we address this deficiency by using paired oxygen isotope and minor element (magnesium/calcium) ratios of planktonic foraminifera from a tropical Pacific core to estimate changes in SST. Using mixed-layer foraminifera, we found that the combined proxies imply a $4\textdegree to 5\textdegree C$ rise in Pacific SST during the PETM. These results would necessitate a rise in atmospheric pCO2 to levels three to four times as high as those estimated for the late Paleocene.

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