Resolving Apparent Conflicts between Oceanographic and Antarctic Climate Records and Evidence for a Decrease in pCO2 during the Oligocene through Early Miocene (34–16 Ma)

Pekar, Stephen F.; Christie-Blick, Nicholas

An apparent mismatch between published oxygen isotopic data and other paleoclimate proxies for the span from 26–16 Ma is resolved by calibration against global sea-level estimates obtained from backstripping continental margin stratigraphy. Ice-volume estimates from calibrated oxygen isotope data compare favorably with stratigraphic and palynological data from Antarctica, and with estimates of atmospheric pCO2 throughout the Oligocene to early Miocene (34–16 Ma). Isotopic evidence for an East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS) as much as 30% larger than its present-day volume at glacial maxima during that span is consistent with seismic reflection and stratigraphic evidence for an ice sheet covering much of the Antarctic continental shelf at the same glacial maxima. Palynological data suggest long-term cooling during the Oligocene, with cold near-tundra environments developing along the coast at glacial minima no later than the late Oligocene. A possible mechanism for this long-term cooling is a decrease in atmospheric pCO2 from the middle Eocene to Oligocene, reaching near pre-industrial levels by the latest Oligocene, and remaining at those depressed levels throughout the Miocene.


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Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology