Evolution of Sea Surface Temperatures in the Coastal Antarctic Paleoenvironment During the Late Cretaceous and Paleogene
This award, provided by the Antarctic Geology and Geophysics Program of the Office of Polar Programs, supports research for construction of a long-term record of climate during the late Cretaceous and early Paleogene to assess the annual seasonality in temperature on the coastal margin of Antarctica. Stable isotope and element compositions of well-preserved bivalve shells collected on Seymour Island will be the primary source of data used to reconstruct paleoenvironmental conditions. Seasonal temperature records collected through high-resolution sampling along growth structures in bivalve shells will allow seasonality to be assessed during different climate states and during periods of rapid climate change. In addition, high stratigraphic resolution will enable this project to detect the presence and frequency of short-lived thermal excursions that may have extended to such high latitudes.
To compile a reliable temporal record of paleoclimate, two major avenues of investigation will be undertaken: 1) precise stratigraphic (and therefore, temporal) placement of fossils over a large geographic area will be employed through the use of a graphical technique employing geometric projections; 2) stable isotope and elemental analyses will be performed to derive paleotemperatures and to evaluate diagenetic alteration of shell materials. To provide realistic comparisons of paleotemperatures across stratigraphic horizons, this study will focus on a single taxon, thus avoiding complications due to the mixing of faunal assemblages that have been encountered in previous studies of this region.
The near-shore marine fossil record on Seymour Island provides a unique opportunity to address many questions about the Antarctic paleoenvironment, including the relation between seasonality and different climate states, the influence of climate on biogeographic distribution of specific taxa, the effect of ice-volume changes on the stable isotope record from the late Cretaceous through the Eocene, and the plausibility of high-latitude bottom water formation during this time interval. In particular, information that will be collected concerning patterns of seasonality and the presence (or absence) of short-lived thermal excursions will be extremely valuable to an understanding of the response of high latitude sites during climate transitions from globally cool to globally warm conditions.
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