A new high-resolution stratigraphic record of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum in the Eastern Tethys

Project Details


An abrupt global warming event that occurred at the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (or PETM; 56 million years ago) is considered an excellent analogue for future global climate change. This event is accompanied by an abrupt 5 to 9 degrees Celsius (9 to 16 degrees Fahrenheit) global temperature rise along with indications of large quantities of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. This project will refine the stratigraphic record of this event as preserved in deposits of the ancient Tethys sea for proxy records of temperature change during this interval in this region. The research will use nannofossil biochronology and high-resolution magnetic susceptibility to begin to unravel the geological history of the region and examine the potential to use a state-of-the art geochemical paleothermometer to quantify temperature change. In doing so, the research will evaluate the importance of the Tethys sea in global climate patterns as well as the role of rapid changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide in this much warmer climate state. The project will also provide support for undergraduate students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Students will be recruited from the American Chemical Society's project SEED (Summer Experiences for the Economically Disadvantaged) and GS-LSAMP (the Garden State Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation). The results of the research will be presented in public events and the data made available to the broader paleoclimate community through the NOAA Paleoclimate database and MagIC database.

Specifically, the research goals of this project are to (1) further develop the stratigraphic record of the pace and timing of temperature increase in the eastern Tethys sea during the PETM , (2) use rock magnetic cyclostratigraphy to estimate the sedimentation rate, and (3) evaluate the feasibility of applying the distributions of glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers to reconstruct sea surface temperatures. These data will evaluate the potential importance of the eastern Tethys in regulating global temperature and moisture changes, as well as the role of large and rapid changes in atmospheric CO2 forcing during the PETM. This information could help document a paleoclimate record that will transform our understanding of the drivers of the PETM and offer useful insight into how the Earth system will respond to current increases in atmospheric CO2 and more generally provide insight into key parameters in global climate models.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Effective start/end date15/07/2031/07/22


  • National Science Foundation: $120,807.00


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