Late Paleocene Thermal Maximum

I’m grateful to Louis Hissink for introducing me to another wonderful can of worms that’s called [amongst other things] the Late Paleocene Thermal Maximum when temperatures are said to have been warmer by about 8 °C for [roughly] 200,000 years about 55.5 million years ago.

The Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), alternatively “Eocene thermal maximum 1” (ETM1), and formerly known as the “Initial Eocene” or “Late Paleocene Thermal Maximum” was a time period with more than 8° C warmer global average temperature than today.[citation needed]

This climate event began at the time boundary between the Paleocene and Eocene geological epochs.

The exact age and duration of the event is uncertain but it is estimated to have occurred around 55.5 million years ago.

The entire warm period lasted for about 200,000 years.

Unsurprisingly, the mainstream doesn’t forget to mention the estimated “more than 8° C” rise in global average temperatures during the Late Paleocene Thermal Maximum is associated with a “massive carbon injection into the atmosphere”.

The associated period of massive carbon injection into the atmosphere has been estimated to have lasted no longer than 20,000 years.

At least since 1997, the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum has become a focal point of considerable geoscience research because it probably provides the best past analog by which to understand impacts of global climate warming and of massive carbon input to the ocean and atmosphere, including ocean acidification.

Although it is now widely accepted that the PETM represents a “case study” for global warming and massive carbon input to Earth’s surface, the cause, details and overall significance of the event remain perplexing.

However, the Wikipedia spiel contains a few interesting wrinkles:

1) There is no [data] graph that illustrates the “massive carbon injection”.

2) The headline “more than 8° C” rise in temperatures subsequently becomes an “initial 5° C”.

The onset of the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum has been linked to an initial 5° C temperature rise and to extreme changes in Earth’s carbon cycle.

The period is marked by a prominent negative excursion in carbon stable isotope (δ13C) records from around the globe; more specifically, there was a large decrease in 13C/12C ratio of marine and terrestrial carbonates and organic carbon.

3) The data associated with the Late Paleocene Thermal Maximum portrays an anomalous event that includes warmer and cooler data outliers.

Therefore, before getting too carried away with the Wikipedia rendition of the Late Paleocene Thermal Maximum it’s advisable to review the source of the underlying Oxygen isotope data and [some of] the associated Settle Science.

Reviewing the Late Paleocene Thermal Maximum images in Wikimedia it soon becomes apparent the original Oxygen isotope graphic is credited to “Jim Zachos, ODP (Ocean Drilling Program)” and that the image was sourced from an article published by the Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

Ocean Burps and Climate Change? – Gavin Schmidt – January 2003
National Aeronautics and Space Administration – Goddard Institute for Space Studies

The Goddard Institute for Space Studies article, in it’s turn, indicates the image was sourced from an Ocean Drilling Program paper.

The Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) was funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation and 22 international partners (JOIDES) to conduct basic research into the history of the ocean basins and the overall nature of the crust beneath the ocean floor using the scientific drill ship JOIDES Resolution.

More specifically, an Ocean Drilling Program paper relating to the Shatsky Rise that lists “James C. Zachos” [Sedimentologist] as a member of the Shipboard Scientific Party.

The Shatsky Rise is Earth’s third largest oceanic plateau, (after Ontong Java and Kerguelen) located in the north-west Pacific Ocean 1,500 km (930 mi) east of Japan.

It is one of a series of Pacific Cretaceous large igneous provinces (LIPs) together with Hess Rise, Magellan Rise, and Ontong Java-Manihiki-Hikurangi.

The rise consists of three large volcanic massifs, Tamu, Ori, and Shirshov, but, in contrast, there are few traces of magmatism on the surrounding ocean floor.

Tamu Massif is an extinct submarine shield volcano located in the northwestern Pacific Ocean.

The possibility of its nature as a single volcano was announced on 5 September 2013, which, if corroborated, would make Tamu Massif the largest known volcano on Earth.

It is located in the Shatsky Rise about 1,600 km (990 mi) east of Japan.

The Shatsky Rise paper reveals the mainstream is very preoccupied with finding samples that are sequentially similar to the pre-defined Settled Science e.g. the Maastricht Formation.

A remarkable set of cores was taken across the Cretaceous/Tertiary (K/T) boundary at four sites on the Southern High and in nine separate holes.

The lithostratigraphy of the boundary succession is remarkably similar in all of the holes, allowing precise correlation between records.

The uppermost Maastrichtian whitish nannofossil foraminiferal ooze contrasts strongly with the pale orange, clay-rich lowermost Danian foraminiferal ooze.

The contact is mixed by bioturbation, but otherwise the boundary interval is undisturbed.

Careful sampling of burrows of Danian ooze within the top of the Maastrichtian yields spherules that are probably altered tektites.

Leg 198 Preliminary Report – 2002
Extreme Warmth in the Cretaceous and Paleogene:
A Depth Transect on Shatsky Rise, Central Pacific
27 August–23 October 2001

The Maastricht Formation, named after the city of Maastricht, the Netherlands, is a geological formation in the Netherlands and Belgium whose strata date back to the Late Cretaceous, within 500,000 years of the Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary, now dated at 66 million years ago.

Clearly, there are similarities between Earth Science and Pick ‘n’ Mix penny candy.

In the United States, some of these confections are called penny candy and are sold by the piece in candy, soda fountain, and five and dime stores.

In Britain, this type of candy is also referred to as pick ‘n’ mix or loose candy.

Loose candy is typically sold at kiosks, grocery stores and candy stores in the way that the customer picks up whatever kind, and how much, of candy they want (typically with a scoop) into a bag by themselves.

The price of the candy depends on its weight, and the weighing can be either done by the customer or the seller.

Unfortunately for Settled Science, selected strata samples [from around the world] that display similar sequences doesn’t guarantee the deposits were created at the same time.

That “correlation proves causation,” is considered a questionable cause logical fallacy when two events occurring together are taken to have established a cause-and-effect relationship…
A similar fallacy, that an event that followed another was necessarily a consequence of the first event, is the post hoc ergo propter hoc (Latin for “after this, therefore because of this.”) fallacy.

An intriguing aspect of the Shatsky Rise cores are the “dark-colored” stone transitions.

A number of critical transitions were cored during Leg 198, most in multiple holes from several sites.

Dark-colored, organic carbon (Corg)-rich claystones and porcellanites of early Aptian OAE1a were recovered at three different sites.

Samples from two of these sites have extremely high organic carbon contents, up to 25.2 and 34.6 wt%. This organic matter is marine in origin and of exceptional preservation, containing evidence for cyanobacteria and the oldest known alkenones, compounds produced by haptophyte algae.

The preservation of organic matter and common lamination suggests deposition and diagenesis in highly dysoxic or anoxic environments.

Nannofossil and radiolarian biostratigraphy indicate that the three sections correlate with sediments representing OAE1a at other sites in the Pacific and southern Europe, including the well-known Selli level of Italy.

Leg 198 Preliminary Report – 2002
Extreme Warmth in the Cretaceous and Paleogene:
A Depth Transect on Shatsky Rise, Central Pacific
27 August–23 October 2001

Porcellanite or porcelanite, is a hard, dense rock somewhat similar in appearance to unglazed porcelain. It is often an impure variety of chert containing clay and calcareous matter.

Mudrocks are a class of fine grained siliciclastic sedimentary rocks.

The varying types of mudrocks include: siltstone, claystone, mudstone, slate, and shale.

There has been a great deal of disagreement involving the classification of mudrocks.

Mudrocks make up fifty percent of the sedimentary rocks in the geologic record, and are easily the most widespread deposits on Earth.

In order for a rock to be considered a claystone, it must consist of up to fifty percent clay, which measures less than 1/256 of a millimeter in particle size.

But these “Dark-colored” transitions don’t represent the Late Paleocene Thermal Maximum which is said to be a 8 to 23 centimetre layer of “yellowish brown” ooze on the Shatsky Rise.

The late Paleocene thermal maximum, one of the primary targets of Shatsky Rise coring, was recovered in 10 separate holes at four sites on the Southern High.

These sites provide a depth range of about 500 m, designed to test the response of the ocean to the hypothesized massive input of methane hydrate.

In all but one of the holes, the LPTM corresponds to an 8- to 23-cm-thick layer of yellowish brown, clayey nannofossil ooze with a sharp base and a gradational top.

At several sites, an extremely thin (1 mm) dark brown clay seam lies at the base of the LPTM, corresponding to a sharp drop in carbonate content as indicated by color reflectance data.

One hole at the deepest site, Site 1211, has an unconformity right above the clay seam.

The LPTM at Site 1209 corresponds to a 12.5-cm-thick medium brown layer of clayey nannofossil ooze with a sharp basal contact and a gradational upper contact.

The event corresponds to a sharp change from a white nannofossil ooze to a brown nannofossil ooze with clay (Fig. F22).

Leg 198 Preliminary Report – 2002
Extreme Warmth in the Cretaceous and Paleogene:
A Depth Transect on Shatsky Rise, Central Pacific
27 August–23 October 2001

Curiously, the claimed 8° C of warming during the Late Paleocene Thermal Maximum is only associated with “high-latitude oceans”.

In terms of the rate and degree of warming, the LPTM is unprecedented in Earth history.

The deep-sea and high-latitude oceans warmed by 4°C and 8°C, respectively.

Leg 198 Preliminary Report – 2002
Extreme Warmth in the Cretaceous and Paleogene:
A Depth Transect on Shatsky Rise, Central Pacific
27 August–23 October 2001

Another curious aspect is the elusive nature of the underlying data.

Figure F6.

Compilation of benthic foraminiferal oxygen isotopic composition from 34 DSDP and ODP sites plotted vs. age (from Zachos et al., 1993; J. Zachos et al., unpubl. Data).

MME = mid-Maastrichtian event,
LPTM = late Paleocene thermal maximum,
OAE = oceanic anoxic event.

Leg 198 Preliminary Report – 2002
Extreme Warmth in the Cretaceous and Paleogene:
A Depth Transect on Shatsky Rise, Central Pacific
27 August–23 October 2001

Obviously, unpublished data represents a major obstacle for researchers.

However, interesting information can be found in the referenced “Zachos et al., 1993;” paper.

Firstly, the study only “considered” 14 sites – 12 of which were deemed to have been in the Southern Hemisphere during the “late Eocene”.

Secondly, it appears very difficult to differentiate [in marine cores] between variations in the “global average temperature” and variations in the “patterns of ocean circulation” over 70 million years.

The large scale patterns of ocean circulation are important when considering how heat was transported through the oceans.

Our understanding of these patterns is still in a preliminary stage.

The thermohaline circulation plays an important role in supplying heat to the polar regions, and thus in regulating the amount of sea ice in these regions, although poleward heat transport outside the tropics is considerably larger in the atmosphere than in the ocean.

Changes in the thermohaline circulation are thought to have significant impacts on the Earth’s radiation budget.

Insofar as the thermohaline circulation governs the rate at which deep waters are exposed to the surface, it may also play an important role in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Thirdly, it appears the underlying data has experienced a presentational face lift that’s made it longer, slimmer and about 2 million years younger i.e. the dating of the Late Paleocene Thermal Maximum has changed from [about] 57.8 million years ago to “around 55.5 million years ago”.

About 55 million years ago an event known as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) occurred.

Ocean Burps and Climate Change? – Gavin Schmidt – January 2003
National Aeronautics and Space Administration – Goddard Institute for Space Studies

The Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), alternatively “Eocene thermal maximum 1” (ETM1), and formerly known as the “Initial Eocene” or “Late Paleocene Thermal Maximum” was a time period with more than 8 °C warmer global average temperature than today.

The exact age and duration of the event is uncertain but it is estimated to have occurred around 55.5 million years ago.

Fourthly, the presentational face lift also appears to have reduced the duration of the Late Paleocene Thermal Maximum from “about 2 to 3 myr” to “about 200,000 years”.

The entire warm period lasted for about 200,000 years.

Hopefully, as some point, a comprehensive analysis of the 333 sites logged by the Ocean Drilling Program will provide more detailed insights…

But I’m not holding my breath.

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12 Responses to Late Paleocene Thermal Maximum

  1. Bear in mind the underlying “grand” assumptions geology makes:
    1. The Earth has always had a constant volume.
    2. It was formed from accretion 4,500 million years ago (accretion is gravitational attraction that by definition must still operate in the present).
    3. The biosphere evolved per Neo-Synthetic theory (updated Darwinism) but read Richard Milton’s book on this topic for an engineer’s take on this topic.
    4. All energy sources have to be endogenous, and sunlight is not enough to melt rock, so it may be ignored. (This also causes problems of heat source for the Climate Change believers).
    5. New crust appears to be forming at the mid-oceanic ridges. Because of 1. constant volume, new crust must be consumed elsewhere.
    6. Earth’s internal heat is caused by radioactive elements, and since over time accretion must be also producing heat by accretion or compression of matter into a smaller volume.

    It is permitted to think heresies if the 6 points listed above are found unsettling and problematical.

  2. Pingback: Eocene Enigmas | Louis Hissink's Crazy World

  3. nickreality65 says:

    Three decades of rancorous handwavium debate over evidence for and the physics behind the Radiative Greenhouse House Effect and man-caused climate change, aka CAGW.

    What a waste since none of it is real.

    The earth being 33 C warmer with an atmosphere is based on the difference between two completely unrelated made up numbers: 288 K, a wild ass guess pulled straight out of WMO’s butt and 255 K, a theoretical S-B BB ideal calculation for the 240 W/m^2 Long Wave Infrared Radiation leaving the top of the atmosphere.

    Furthermore, the lunar studies by Volokin/Nikolov and Kramm clearly conclude that without an atmosphere the earth would be much like the moon, a barren rock with the lit/hot side maybe 390 K, the dark/cold side maybe 190 K and not even colder by 33 C.

    The LWIR up/down/”back” GHG energy warming loop is a theoretical S-B BB ideal baseline calculation for any surface at 288 K and likewise not real. Contiguous participating media, i.e. atmospheric molecules, render impossible any BB emission from the surface.

    No 33 C warmer + No GHG energy loop = No RGHE & No CAGW.

    Am I wrong?
    Always possible – for all of us.
    ’cause if I’m not wrong decades of research, “evidence,” publications and billions of dollars goes straight in the dumper and the entire trillion dollar global climate change industry is suddenly unemployed.

  4. johnm33 says:

    It may be worthwhile comparing the timeline of seditments in Lake El-gygytgyn, there too iirc they found an +8deg surprise.

    • Unconformities mean disruption of earlier sedimentation and deposition of different material sourced from other locations. This suggests the PETM might be muds derived from warmer latitudes and not necessarily indicative of a global thermal event.

      It all depends on how well we understand marine sedimentation, the cause(s) of global sea-level changes, and other imponderables not yet on the radar.

      • In addition a slight axial careen or “pole wander” could shift polar latitudes to temperature and that could result in the change of nanofossil isotopes.
        On the other hand if we are dealing with an axially fixed roration and constant volume earth, where careening is rejected, then changes in temperature have to be explained by non dynamic parameters.

        Understanding gyroscope behaviour becomes important.

  5. malagabay says:

    And the Potter’s Wheel…

  6. melitamegalithic says:

    Louis Hissink has pointed to very important observations; the understanding of marine sedimentation, with the added relation of – not polar wander – but an axial tilt change.

    Marine sedimentation, plus a host of other proxies, indicate that axial tilt changes are a reality. At the risk of ad nauseam , I point again to a link that IMO leaves little doubt. Link:

    The date ~3200bce of upper thick layer is important in that it is about the time that a) Ness of Brodgar buried in sea silt, b) tarxien temple (really calendar but overbuilt) buried in sea sand, c) gobleki tepe buried completely, but here I hold dates not as stated but nearer to the other two.

    Important question is ‘from where did the sapropel layers in an otherwise clayey sediment originate?’ Evidently not marine vegetation. (It would be interesting to have a DNA analysis/search of that – human DNA).

  7. oldbrew says:

    Another possible line of enquiry – oxygen.

    Article: Can climate feel the pressure?
    Changes in atmospheric pressure may be an important long-term climate forcing mechanism

    On page 1238 of this issue, Poulsen et al report model results that identify O2 [oxygen] as an important climate driver through its contribution to total atmospheric pressure.

    Of course they try to weave the idea into greenhouse gas theory, but the concept still looks interesting.

  8. Pingback: Late Paleocene Thermal Minimum | MalagaBay

  9. Pingback: The Late Paleocene Event | MalagaBay

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