Archives par mot-clé : Cretaceous

Early Cretaceous shift in the global carbon cycle affected both land and sea

by University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Feb 22, 2023 in ScienceDaily

Geologists doing fieldwork in southeastern Utah’s Cedar Mountain Formation found carbon isotope evidence that the site, though on land, experienced the same early Cretaceous carbon-cycle change recorded in marine sedimentary rocks in Europe. This ancient carbon-cycle phenomenon, known as the ‘Weissert Event’ was driven by large, sustained volcanic eruptions in the Southern Hemisphere that greatly increased carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and produced significant greenhouse climate effects over a prolonged time.

Scientific research in recent decades has confirmed that major changes in the global carbon cycle caused significant changes in the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans 135 million years ago, during the early Cretaceous Period. A range of questions remain about the details of climate change dynamics in that era. This new research, involving wide-ranging chemical and radioactivity-based analyses of rock strata in Utah’s Cedar Mountain Formation, helps fill in that knowledge gap by confirming that such carbon-cycle shifts were recorded on land in ancient North America.

The carbon cycle is one of Earth’s fundamental environmental phenomena, involving the ongoing transfer of carbon among the atmosphere, oceans and living organisms, as well as soils, sediments and rocks in the solid Earth. The cycle is crucial to biological processes for living things on land and sea. When large-scale changes in the cycle occur, they can produce major shifts in climate and the oceans’ biological conditions.

“We’re studying how the global carbon cycle has functioned in the past, how changes are recorded in the sedimentary rocks around the world,” said Joeckel, a professor in the School of Natural Resources at Nebraska. The environmental phenomena he and his colleagues analyzed “are exactly the kind of things we’re talking about today, as people increase the input of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at a much-accelerated rate by burning fossil fuels.”

Joeckel, the Nebraska state geologist, headed the Utah fieldwork and organized the study, published as a peer-reviewed paper in a special February issue of the journal Geosciences.

Abrupt episode of mid-Cretaceous ocean acidification triggered by massive volcanism

by Jones et al., Jan 2023 in NatureGeoscience


Large-igneous-province volcanic activity during the mid-Cretaceous triggered a global-scale episode of reduced marine oxygen levels known as Oceanic Anoxic Event 2 approximately 94.5 million years ago. It has been hypothesized that this geologically rapid degassing of volcanic carbon dioxide altered seawater carbonate chemistry, affecting marine ecosystems, geochemical cycles and sedimentation. Here we report on two sites drilled by the International Ocean Discovery Program offshore of southwest Australia that exhibit clear evidence for suppressed pelagic carbonate sedimentation in the form of a stratigraphic interval barren of carbonate minerals, recording ocean acidification during the event. We then use the osmium isotopic composition of bulk sediments to directly link this protracted ~600 kyr shoaling of the marine calcite compensation depth to the onset of volcanic activity. This decrease in marine pH was prolonged by biogeochemical feedbacks in highly productive regions where elevated heterotrophic respiration added carbon dioxide to the water column. A compilation of mid-Cretaceous marine stratigraphic records reveals a contemporaneous decrease of sedimentary carbonate content at continental slope sites globally. Thus, we contend that changes in marine carbonate chemistry are a primary ecological stress and important consequence of rapid emission of carbon dioxide during many large-igneous-province eruptions in the geologic past.

Ultra-depleted hydrogen isotopes in hydrated glass record Late Cretaceous glaciation in Antarctica

by D.A. Nelson et al. , Sept 7, 2022 in NatureCommunications


The Early Jurassic Butcher Ridge Igneous Complex (BRIC) in the Transantarctic Mountains contains abundant and variably hydrated silicic glass which has the potential to preserve a rich paleoclimate record. Here we present Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopic data that indicates BRIC glasses contain up to ~8 wt.% molecular water (H2Om), and low (<0.8 wt.%) hydroxyl (OH) component, interpreted as evidence for secondary hydration by meteoric water. BRIC glasses contain the most depleted hydrogen isotopes yet measured in terrestrial rocks, down to δD = −325 ‰. In situ 40Ar/39Ar geochronology of hydrated glasses with ultra-depleted δD values yield ages from 105 Ma to 72 Ma with a peak at c. 91.4 Ma. Combined, these data suggest hydration of BRIC glasses by polar glacial ice and melt water during the Late Cretaceous, contradicting paleoclimate reconstructions of this period that suggest Antarctica was ice-free and part of a global hot greenhouse.

Volcanic eruptions directly triggered ocean acidification during Early Cretaceous

by Northwestern University, Dec 21, 2020 in ScienceDaily

Around 120 million years ago, the earth experienced an extreme environmental disruption that choked oxygen from its oceans.

Known as oceanic anoxic event (OAE) 1a, the oxygen-deprived water led to a minor — but significant — mass extinction that affected the entire globe. During this age in the Early Cretaceous Period, an entire family of sea-dwelling nannoplankton virtually disappeared.

By measuring calcium and strontium isotope abundances in nannoplankton fossils, Northwestern earth scientists have concluded the eruption of the Ontong Java Plateau large igneous province (LIP) directly triggered OAE1a. Roughly the size of Alaska, the Ontong Java LIP erupted for seven million years, making it one of the largest known LIP events ever. During this time, it spewed tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, pushing Earth into a greenhouse period that acidified seawater and suffocated the oceans.