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Reduced carbon cycle resilience across the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Stockholm Resilience Centre. University of Southampton, UK.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-0020-7461
Number of Authors: 22018 (English)In: Climate of the Past, ISSN 1814-9324, E-ISSN 1814-9332, Vol. 14, no 10, p. 1515-1527Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Several past episodes of rapid carbon cycle and climate change are hypothesised to be the result of the Earth system reaching a tipping point beyond which an abrupt transition to a new state occurs. At the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) at similar to 56 Ma and at subsequent hyperthermal events, hypothesised tipping points involve the abrupt transfer of carbon from surface reservoirs to the atmosphere. Theory suggests that tipping points in complex dynamical systems should be preceded by critical slowing down of their dynamics, including increasing temporal auto-correlation and variability. However, reliably detecting these indicators in palaeorecords is challenging, with issues of data quality, false positives, and parameter selection potentially affecting reliability. Here we show that in a sufficiently long, high-resolution palaeorecord there is consistent evidence of destabilisation of the carbon cycle in the similar to 1.5 Myr prior to the PETM, elevated carbon cycle and climate instability following both the PETM and Eocene Thermal Maximum 2 (ETM2), and different drivers of carbon cycle dynamics preceding the PETM and ETM2 events. Our results indicate a loss of resilience (weakened stabilising negative feedbacks and greater sensitivity to small shocks) in the carbon cycle before the PETM and in the carbon-climate system following it. This pre-PETM carbon cycle destabilisation may reflect gradual forcing by the contemporaneous North Atlantic Volcanic Province eruptions, with volcanism-driven warming potentially weakening the organic carbon burial feedback. Our results are consistent with but cannot prove the existence of a tipping point for abrupt carbon release, e.g. from methane hydrate or terrestrial organic carbon reservoirs, where as we find no support for a tipping point in deep ocean temperature.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2018. Vol. 14, no 10, p. 1515-1527
National Category
Earth and Related Environmental Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-161923DOI: 10.5194/cp-14-1515-2018ISI: 000447837600002OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-161923DiVA, id: diva2:1262811
Available from: 2018-11-13 Created: 2018-11-13 Last updated: 2018-12-20Bibliographically approved

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