Friday, June 10, 2005

Rapid Acidification of the Ocean During the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum

According to the wikipedia entry "The end of the Paleocene (55.5/54.8 Ma) was marked by one of the most significant periods of global change during the Cenozoic, a sudden global change, the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, which upset oceanic and atmospheric circulation and led to the extinction of numerous deep-sea benthic foraminifera and on land, a major turnover in mammals."

report in Science. Summary:
A rapid and large global warming event, the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), raised interior ocean temperatures by 4º to 5ºC around 55 million years ago, a rise not equaled in any single event since then. This warming, whose origin is still debated, was accompanied by a dramatic negative carbon isotopic excursion. One hypothesis is that the release of 2000 gigatons of carbon from the destabilization of methane clathrates on the sea floor account for both the carbon isotopic signal and the temperature increase. Zachos et al. (p. 1611) now show that the carbonate compensation depth (roughly the depth at which calcium carbonate is no longer found in the sediment, because of dissolution during sinking) of the ocean rose by more than 2 kilometers during the PETM, which could have happened only if the amount of CO2 added to the ocean was much more than that which has been estimated in the clathrate scenario. They find that 4000 gigatons of carbon would have been needed, so the release of clathrates alone could not have been the cause of the warming.

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