Temperature changes across the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum – a new high-resolution TEX86 temperature record from the Eastern North Sea Basin

Ella W. Stokke, Morgan T. Jones, Jessica E. Tierney, Henrik H. Svensen, Jessica H. Whiteside

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


The Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM; ∼55.9 Ma) was a hyperthermal event associated with large carbon cycle perturbations, sustained global warming, and marine and terrestrial environmental changes. One possible trigger and/or source of the carbon release that initiated the PETM is the emplacement of the North Atlantic Igneous Province (NAIP). This study focuses on an expanded section of marine clays and diatomite on Fur Island in northern Denmark, where the entire PETM sequence has been identified by a negative ∼4.5‰ δ13CTOC excursion. This remarkably well-preserved section also contains >180 interbedded ash layers sourced from the NAIP, making it an ideal site for investigating the correlations between large-scale volcanism and environmental changes. This study provides a new and complete high-resolution TEX86-derived sea-surface temperature (SST) reconstruction over the entire PETM and the post-PETM section (up to about 54.6 Ma). The palaeothermometry record indicates an apparent short-lived cooling episode in the late Paleocene, followed by a pronounced temperature response to the PETM carbon cycle perturbations with a ∼10 °C SST increase during the PETM onset (up to ∼33 °C). Extreme SSTs fall shortly after the PETM onset, and continue to decrease during the PETM body and recovery, down to anomalously cool SSTs post-PETM (∼11–23 °C). Both phases of potential cooling coincide with proxies of active NAIP volcanism, suggesting a causal connection, although several overprinting non-thermal factors complicate interpretations of the TEX86 values. Indices of effusive and explosive NAIP volcanism are largely absent from the Danish stratigraphy during the PETM body, though a re-emergence toward the end of the PETM suggest NAIP volcanism might have played a role in the PETM termination in the North Sea. This new SST record completes the previous fragmented view of climate changes at this globally important PETM site, and indicates large temperature variations in the North Sea during the earliest Eocene that are possibly linked to NAIP volcanism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number116388
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
StatePublished - Aug 15 2020


  • North Atlantic Igneous Province
  • PETM
  • TEX
  • palaeotemperatures

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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