Eocene Latitudinal Gradients
The Early Eocene Climatic Optimum, occurring roughly 52 million years ago, represents a potential Earth System response to projected CO2 emissions over the next couple centuries. During that time, both of the poles were free of the large ice sheets that today cover Greenland and Antarctica, and the arctic circle was populated with palm trees and crocodiles. While global temperatures were much warmer, most of this temperature increase was concentrated at the high latitudes, reducing the Earth’s latitudinal temperature gradient. This has important implications for the hydrologic cycle, particularly with regards to the transport of latent heat from low to high latitudes. We have collected isotopic records of this time period from a broad latitudinal range and are comparing them with vapor transport models in order to quantify the relationships between latitudinal gradients of temperature, water vapor, and isotopes under a radically different climatic regime. See our recent paper in Geophysical Research Letters (Winnick et al., 2015).
Click here to check out photos from our fieldwork in British Columbia on Hari Mix's blog.
Check out blog posts by our SESUR fellow Alexis Wood about the Eocene.