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Philos Trans A Math Phys Eng Sci. 2013 Sep 16;371(2001):20130094. doi: 10.1098/rsta.2013.0094. Print 2013 Oct 28.

High-resolution alkenone palaeobarometry indicates relatively stable pCO(2) during the Pliocene (3.3-2.8 Ma).

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Organic Geochemistry Unit, Bristol Biogeochemistry Research Centre, and The Cabot Institute, School of Chemistry, University of Bristol, , Cantock's Close, Bristol BS8 1TS, UK.


Temperature reconstructions indicate that the Pliocene was approximately 3(°)C warmer globally than today, and several recent reconstructions of Pliocene atmospheric CO2 indicate that it was above pre-industrial levels and similar to those likely to be seen this century. However, many of these reconstructions have been of relatively low temporal resolution, meaning that these records may have failed to capture variations associated with the 41 kyr glacial-interglacial cycles thought to have operated in the Pliocene. Here we present a new, high temporal resolution alkenone carbon isotope-based record of pCO2 spanning 3.3-2.8 Ma from Ocean Drilling Program Site 999. Our record is of high enough resolution (approx. 19 kyr) to resolve glacial-interglacial changes beyond the intrinsic uncertainty of the proxy method. The record suggests that Pliocene CO2 levels were relatively stable, exhibiting variation less than 55 ppm. We perform sensitivity studies to investigate the possible effect of changing sea surface temperature (SST), which highlights the importance of accurate and precise SST reconstructions for alkenone palaeobarometry, but demonstrate that these uncertainties do not affect our conclusions of relatively stable pCO2 levels during this interval.


Ocean Drilling Program Site 999; Pliocene; alkenone; atmospheric carbon dioxide; climate; pCO2


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