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Middle Eocene greenhouse warming facilitated by diminished weathering feedback.

van der Ploeg, R. and Selby, D. and Cramwinckel, M.J. and Li, Y. and Bohaty, S.M. and Middelburg, J.J. and Sluijs, A. (2018) 'Middle Eocene greenhouse warming facilitated by diminished weathering feedback.', Nature communications., 9 . p. 2877.


The Middle Eocene Climatic Optimum (MECO) represents a ~500-kyr period of global warming ~40 million years ago and is associated with a rise in atmospheric CO2 concentrations, but the cause of this CO2 rise remains enigmatic. Here we show, based on osmium isotope ratios (187Os/188Os) of marine sediments and published records of the carbonate compensation depth (CCD), that the continental silicate weathering response to the inferred CO2 rise and warming was strongly diminished during the MECO—in contrast to expectations from the silicate weathering thermostat hypothesis. We surmise that global early and middle Eocene warmth gradually diminished the weatherability of continental rocks and hence the strength of the silicate weathering feedback, allowing for the prolonged accumulation of volcanic CO2 in the oceans and atmosphere during the MECO. These results are supported by carbon cycle modeling simulations, which highlight the fundamental importance of a variable weathering feedback strength in climate and carbon cycle interactions in Earth’s history.

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Publisher statement:This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit licenses/by/4.0/. © The Author(s) 2018
Date accepted:10 July 2018
Date deposited:04 July 2018
Date of first online publication:23 July 2018
Date first made open access:24 July 2018

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