--> Applications of the Sedimentary Record of Astronomically-Driven Paleoclimate Oscillations and Trends, by Linda A. Hinnov and James G. Ogg, #40321 (2008).

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Applications of the Sedimentary Record of Astronomically-Driven Paleoclimate Oscillations and Trends*

Linda A. Hinnov1 and James G. Ogg2


Search and Discovery Article #40321 (2008)

Posted December 2, 2008


*Adapted from oral presentation AAPG Convention, San Antonio, TX, April 20-23, 2008.


1Earth and Planetary Sciences, John Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD ([email protected])
2Department of Atmospheric and Earth Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayetta, IN



Paleoclimate research has led to the realization that quasi-periodic oscillations in the Earth’s orbit and axial tilt have been a major driving factor in past climate variations. In addition to their role in governing the Quaternary glacial episodes, these astronomical-forced oscillations have left their record in variations of surface climate and weathering, ocean circulation and productivity, and other features captured in the sedimentary record. Resolving this sedimentary ‘metronome’ from outcrops and cores has enabled a revolution in Earth system science.

Global marine sequences, ocean anoxic events, and even biotic extinctions are connected with long-period astronomical modulations. Precise prediction of the superimposed fine-scale oscillations into the distant past is the basis for high-resolution calibration of the Cenozoic timescale and is rapidly becoming the foundation for Mesozoic-Paleozoic scaling. With a 0.02-0.4-myr resolving power, the ‘astronomical timescale’ offers orders of magnitude improvement over previous geologic timescale estimates and significantly broadens the issues that can be addressed in Earth systems research.

For example, paleoclimatologists now know the rate of increase in warming and pCO2 associated with the Paleocene/Eocene Thermal Maximum, thereby constraining causation mechanisms and feedbacks. Cyclic stratigraphy enables precise scaling of Oxfordian-Kimmeridgian and Aptian-Albian biozones, hence calculation of formation rates of associated source rocks for the majority of the world's oil and gas. In modern climate change research, past climates that experienced astronomical forcing similar to the present are being investigated as potential predictors of future climate. These and other developments testify to the impressive transformative power of the astronomical paleoclimate record in the modern study of the Earth system.




























































Astronomically forced stratigraphy provides a high resolution ‘metronome’ for Earth history:

  • 0.02-0.10 myrs [Cenozoic]; 0.1-0.4 myrs [Mesozoic].
  • reduces GTS uncertainties by an order of magnitude or more.
  • provides continuous time calibration between radioisotope-dated points.
  • allows highly resolved estimates of timings and rates of geologic processes.

This has enabled a revolution in Earth sciences:

  • 3rd order sequences forced by orbital parameters [sequence stratigraphy.]
  • high-resolution stratigraphic correlation [global stratigraphy].
  • Cretaceous oceanic anoxic events coordinated by orbital modulations [paleoceanography].
  • Cenozoic mammalian turnover rates paced by orbital modulations [paleobiology].
  • new evaluation of sea-floor spreading rates [tectonics].
  • independent estimates of tidal dissipation and Earth rotation history [geodynamics].
  • exploration of Solar System evolution in deep time [astrodynamics].

Selected References

Boulila, S., J.G. Ogg, P.A. Przybylski, B. Galbrun, and L.A. Hinnov, 2008, Pacific spreading rates during Middle Jurassic through Early Cretaceous; Astronomical cycle-derived durations of M-Sequence polarity chrons: GSA Annual Convention Program Abstracts, Houston, Texas, in press.

Grippo, A., A.G. Fischer, L.A. Hinnov, T.M. Herbert, and S. Premoli, 2004, Cyclostratigraphy and chronology of the Albian stage (Piobbico Core, Italy): Cyclostratigraphy; approaches and case histories, SEPM Special Publication, no. 81, p. 57-81.

Mort, Haydon, Olivier Jacquat c, Thierry Adatte, Philip Steinmann, Karl Föllmi, Virginie Matera, Zsolt Berner, and Doris Stüben, 2007, The Cenomanian/Turonian anoxic event at the Bonarelli Level in Italy and Spain: enhanced productivity and/or better preservation? Cretaceous Research, v. 28, no. 4, p. 597-612.

Rohl, U., T. Westerhold, T.J. Bralower, and J.C. Zachos, 2007, On the duration of the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum (PETM): Geochemical, Geophysics, Geosystems, 8, Q12002, doi: 10.1029/2007GC001784, Web accessed 31 October 2008, http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2007/2007GC001784.shtml

Van Dam, J.A., 2006, Geographic and temporal patterns in the late Neogene (12-3 Ma) aridification of Europe; the use of small mammals as paleoprecipitation proxies: Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, v. 238/1-4, p. 190-218.

Van Vugt, N., 2000, Orbital forcing in late Neogene lacustrine basins from the Mediterranean; A magnetostratigraphic and cyclostratigraphic study: PhD thesis, University of Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands, 167 p.

Van Vugt, N., J. Steenbrink, C.G. Langereis, F.J. Hilgen and J.E. Meulenkamp, 1998, Magnetostratigraphy-based astronomical tuning of the early Pliocene lacustrine sediments of Ptolemais (NW Greece) and bed-to-bed correlation with the marine record: Earth and Planetary Science Letters, v. 164/3-4, p. 535-551.

Westerhold, T., U. Roehl, J. Laskar, I. Raffi, J. Bowles, L.J. Lourens, and J.C. Zachos, 2007, On the duration of magnetochrons C24r and C25n and the timing of early Eocene global warming events; implications from the Ocean Drilling Program Leg 208 Walvis Ridge depth transect: Paleoceanography, v. 22/2, p. PA2201, doi:10.1029/2006PA001322


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