Evidence for orbital forcing of dust accumulation during the early Paleogene greenhouse Academic Article uri icon


  • The accumulation of wind blown (eolian) dust in deep-sea sediments reflects the aridity/humidity conditions of the continental region supplying the dust, as well as the "gustiness" of the climate system. Detailed studies of Pleistocene glacial-interglacial dust fluxes suggest changes in accumulation rates corresponding to orbital variations in solar insolation (Milankovitch cycles). While the orbital cycles found in sedimentary archives of the Pleistocene are intricately related to glacial growth and decay, similar global orbital signals recognized in deep-sea sediments of early Paleogene age, the last major greenhouse interval 65-45 million years ago, could not have been linked to the waxing and waning of large ice sheets. Thus orbital signals recorded in early Paleogene sediments must reflect some other climate response to changes in solar insolation. To explore the potential connection between orbital forcing and the climate processes that control dust accumulation, we generated a high-resolution dust record for 58 Myr old sediments from Shatsky Rise (ODP Site 1209, paleolatitude 15N-20N). The dust accumulation data provide the first evidence of a correlation between dust flux to the deep sea and orbital cyclicity during the early Paleogene, indicating dust supply responded to insolation forcing during the last major interval of greenhouse climate. Furthermore, the relative amplitude of the dust flux response during the early Paleogene greenhouse was comparable to that during icehouse climates. Thus, subtle variations in solar insolation driven by changes in Earth's orbit about the Sun may have had a similar impact on climate during intervals of overall warmth as they did during glacial-interglacial states. Copyright 2011 by the American Geophysical Union.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Woodard, S. C., Thomas, D. J., Hovan, S., Roehl, U., & Westerhold, T.

citation count

  • 9

complete list of authors

  • Woodard, Stella C||Thomas, Deborah J||Hovan, Steve||Roehl, Ursula||Westerhold, Thomas

publication date

  • January 2011