Large-scale, astronomically paced sediment input to the North Sea Basin during the Paleocene Eocene Thermal Maximum

Simin Jin, David B. Kemp, David W. Jolley, Manuel Vieira, James C. Zachos, Chunju Huang, Mingsong Li, Wenhan Chen

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17 Scopus citations


Among the predicted responses to ongoing climate warming is that coastal and inland areas may experience increasingly extreme weather, with potentially more droughts and floods. Such changes will have corresponding impacts on sedimentary systems. The Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum (PETM, ∼56 Ma) was the most abrupt extreme warming event of the Cenozoic, and has historically been treated as a potentially useful analogue for understanding regional and global responses to future climate change. Emerging evidence indicates that the PETM significantly altered the hydrological cycle, but the precise response(s) of sedimentary systems to the large-scale hydroclimatic changes of the PETM are mostly unknown. Here, we present the thickest sedimentary archive yet recorded of the PETM from a cored well in the North Sea Basin, offshore UK. The negative carbon isotope excursion (CIE) marking the PETM in this succession spans 140.2 m, and is coeval with the occurrence of >200 turbidite sandstone beds. The CIE and these turbidites occur in an otherwise mud-dominated succession, and suggest an order of magnitude increase in sedimentation rates coeval with the PETM. Time series analysis of turbidite recurrence indicates a ∼21 kyr astronomical precession paced climate control on this large-scale sediment influx. A time lag between the onset of the CIE and a marked increase in turbidite deposition is also recognized. Our work uncovers a clear link between extreme climate warming, intensification of the hydrological cycle, and large-scale changes in sediment supply at the PETM. Moreover, our findings reveal the importance of astronomical climate forcing in mediating these factors over long, multi-millennial timescales.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number117340
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
StatePublished - Feb 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


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