Tech UPTechnologyThis is how the Gulf of Mexico escaped global...

This is how the Gulf of Mexico escaped global warming 56 million years ago


An ancient episode of global warming 56 million years ago that acidified the oceans and wiped out marine life had a milder impact in the Gulf of Mexico, where life was protected by unique basin geology , concludes a new study led by carried out by scientists from the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics (UTIG).

The results, which were published in the journal Marine and Petroleum Geology , not only shed light on a prehistoric mass extinction, but may also aid in attempts to identify oil and gas reservoirs, as well as help scientists predict how it would affect current climate change to marine species.


learn from the past

So even though the Gulf of Mexico looks very different today, UTIG geochemist Bob Cunningham, who led the research, said valuable lessons about current climate change can be drawn from how the Gulf has been affected. in the past. “This event known as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum or PETM is very important to understand because it points towards a very powerful, albeit brief, injection of carbon into the atmosphere that is similar to what is happening now.”

Cunningham and his collaborators investigated the early period of global warming and its impact on marine life and chemistry by studying a group of mud, sand, and limestone deposits found throughout the Gulf. Through oil and gas drilling, they located a large number of microfossils of radiolaria (a type of plankton), which thrived in this area during ancient global warming.

This suggests that a steady supply of sediment from circulating rivers and ocean waters would have helped radiolaria and other microorganisms survive even as Earth’s warm climate became more hostile to life.

“In many places, the ocean was absolutely uninhabitable for anything,” said UTIG biostratigrapher Marcie Purkey Phillips. “But we just don’t seem to see as severe an effect in the Gulf of Mexico as has been seen elsewhere.”

“The Gulf of Mexico is a tremendous natural archive of geological history that is also closely examined. We have used this very robust database to examine one of the highest thermal events in the geologic record, and I think it has given us a very nuanced view of a very important moment in Earth’s history, ” say the authors.

Referencia: Robert Cunningham, Marcie Purkey Phillips, John W. Snedden, Ian O. Norton, Christopher M. Lowery, Jon W. Virdell, Craig D. Barrie, Aaron Avery. Productivity and organic carbon trends through the Wilcox Group in the deep Gulf of Mexico: Evidence for ventilation during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. Marine and Petroleum Geology, 2022; 140: 105634 DOI: 10.1016/j.marpetgeo.2022.105634

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