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A Temperature-Dependent Positive Feedback on the Magnitude of Carbon Isotope Excursions

Finnegan, Seth and Fike, David A. and Jones, David and Fischer, Woodward W. (2012) A Temperature-Dependent Positive Feedback on the Magnitude of Carbon Isotope Excursions. Geoscience Canada, 39 (3). pp. 122-131. ISSN 0315-0941.

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The decrease in the average magnitude of carbon isotope excursions in marine carbonates over Phanerozoic time is a longstanding unresolved problem. In addition, carbon isotope excursions commonly co-occur with oxygen isotope excursions of the same sign, implying the existence of a longstanding link between organic carbon burial fluxes and temperature. It was proposed that this connection was provided by the thermodynamic relationship between temperature and microbial respiration rates – changes in temperature drive changes in organic carbon remineralization rate and organic carbon burial efficiency. Such a mechanism provides the logic for a positive feedback affecting the magnitude of both climate changes and carbon isotope excursions. Here, we employ feedback analysis to quantify the strength of this mechanism with modifications to a simple carbon isotope mass balance framework. We demonstrate that the potential strength of this feedback is large (perhaps several permil) for plausible ranges of historical climate change. Furthermore, our results highlight the importance of the surface temperature boundary condition on the magnitude of the expected carbon isotope excursion. Comparisons of our model predictions with data from the terminal Eocene and Late Ordovician (Hirnantian) greenhouse–icehouse climate transitions suggest that these excursions might be substantially explained by such a thermodynamic microbial respiration feedback. Consequently, we hypothesize that the observed pattern of decreasing excursion magnitude toward the present might be explained at least, in part, by a decrease in the mean temperature of environments of organic carbon burial driven by long-term climate and paleogeographic trends.

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Fike, David A.0000-0003-2848-0328
Fischer, Woodward W.0000-0002-8836-3054
Additional Information:© 2012 Geological Association of Canada. Received June 2012 Accepted as revised September 2012. We wish to express our gratitude to Paul Hoffman who introduced us to, and greatly stimulated our interests in, paleoclimate and the history of the carbon cycle during many late nights in Cambridge, MA. We thank Andy Thompson and Ian Eisenman for insight into the complexities of predicting ocean circulation changes as a function of temperature. The observations in Fig. 2B, collected and made available by the MODIS and SeaWIFS missions, were made possible, in part, by NASA. This work was supported by Agouron Institute awards to WWF and DAF, Packard Fellowships to WWF and DAF, and a National Science Foundation (EAR-1053523) award to WWF.
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Agouron InstituteUNSPECIFIED
David and Lucile Packard FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Issue or Number:3
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20130410-114448108
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Official Citation:Paul F. Hoffman Series A Temperature-Dependent Positive Feedback on the Magnitude of Carbon Isotope Excursions Seth Finnegan, David A. Fike, David Jones, Woodward W. Fischer
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:37860
Deposited By: Ruth Sustaita
Deposited On:10 Apr 2013 20:10
Last Modified:13 Dec 2019 00:47

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