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August 2008 Geology and GSA Today media highlights
Date:7/23/2008

, Facultad Ciencias Exactas Naturales, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Ciudad Universitaria, Pabelln 2 C1428EHA, Ciudad de Buenos Aires, Argentina. Pages 643-646.

Due to the impact of global warming, it has become essential to understand the causes and processes involved in past climate changes. One of the most prominent events in Earth's climatic evolution was the transition from the global warmth of the Eocene "greenhouse" to the Oligocene "icehouse" glacial conditions. It is widely believed that the separation of South America from Antarctica and the subsequent formation of Drake Passage have influenced Cenozoic global cooling because these events enabled the development of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. This wind-driven current facilitates inter-ocean exchange of seawater and is speculated to have reduced heat transport to Antarctica, triggering the Oligocene global cooling. Alternatively, it has been proposed that the opening of the Drake Passage influenced circulation-induced productivity increases that may have sequestered atmospheric CO2, contributing to global cooling and Antarctic glaciation. While the former theory is based on the presumption that the marine connection was coeval with initiation of Antarctic glaciation at the Eocene-Oligocene boundary, the latter requires an earlier (middle Eocene) ocean water exchange. Unfortunately, age estimates for the onset of a seaway through the Drake Passage range from middle Eocene to early Miocene, complicating interpretations of the relationship between ocean circulation and global cooling. Studying the southeast tip of Tierra del Fuego, a region that was once attached to the Antarctic Peninsula, Ghiglione et al. discovered evidence for the opening of widespread early Eocene extensional depocenters. The succession of events described in their study show that the opening of a seaway through the Drake Passage was early enough to contribute to global cooling through lowering levels of atmosphe
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Contact: Christa Stratton
cstratton@geosociety.org
303-357-1093
Geological Society of America
Source:Eurekalert

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