Astrochronology of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum on the Atlantic Coastal Plain

Mingsong Li, Timothy J. Bralower, Lee R. Kump, Jean M. Self-Trail, James C. Zachos, William D. Rush, Marci M. Robinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The chronology of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM, ~56 Ma) remains disputed, hampering complete understanding of the possible trigger mechanisms of this event. Here we present an astrochronology for the PETM carbon isotope excursion from Howards Tract, Maryland a paleoshelf environment, on the mid-Atlantic Coastal Plain. Statistical evaluation of variations in calcium content and magnetic susceptibility indicates astronomical forcing was involved and the PETM onset lasted about 6 kyr. The astrochronology and Earth system modeling suggest that the PETM onset occurred at an extreme in precession during a maximum in eccentricity, thus favoring high temperatures, indicating that astronomical forcing could have played a role in triggering the event. Ca content data on the paleo-shelf, along with other marine records, support the notion that a carbonate saturation overshoot followed global ocean acidification during the PETM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5618
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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