The Colorado Plateau Coring Project (CPCP): 100 Million Years of Earth System History
Lasting over 100 million years, the early Mesozoic (252 to 145 Ma) is punctuated by two of the five major mass extinctions of the Phanerozoic (Permo-Triassic and Triassic-Jurassic) plus several smaller extinction events. It witnessed the evolutionary appearance of the modem terrestrial biota including frogs, salamanders, turtles, lizards, crocodilians, dinosaurs, birds, and mammals, and spans a time of dramatic climate changes on the continents. What is arguably the richest record of these events lies in the vast (- 2.5 million km2) complex of epicontinental basins in the western part of Pangea, now largely preserved on the Colorado Plateau (Fig.l). Since the mid-19th century, classic studies of these basins, their strata, and their fossils have made this succession instrumental in framing our context of the early Mesozoic Earth system as reflected in the international literature. Despite this long and distinguished history of study of the Colorado Plateau region, striking ambiguities in temporal resolution, major uncertainties in global correlations, and significant doubts about paleolatitudinal position hamper incorporation of the huge amount of information from the region into-tests of major competing climatic, biotic, and tectonic hypotheses and a fundamental understanding of Earth system processes.
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- Earth Science Frontiers