A multi-proxy approach to determine Antarctic terrestrial palaeoclimate during the Late Cretaceous and Early Tertiary

Fossil wood is abundant throughout the Cretaceous and Tertiary sequences of the northern Antarctic Peninsula region. The fossil wood represents the remains of the vegetation that once grew at the southern high palaeolatitudes at 59–62°S through the general decline in climate, from the Late Cretaceous global warmth through to the mid-Eocene cool period prior to the onset of glaciation. This study draws on the largest dataset ever compiled of Antarctic conifer and angiosperm woods in order to derive clearer insights into the palaeoclimate. Parameters including mean annual temperature, mean annual range in temperature, cold month mean, warm month mean, mean annual precipitation are recorded. The fossil wood assemblages have been analysed using anatomical (physiognomic) characteristics to determine the palaeoclimate variables from the Coniacian–Campanian to the middle Eocene. These results are compared with data derived from Coexistence Analysis of the fossil floras (composed of leaves, wood and palynomorphs) and published data based on leaf physiognomic characters. These studies indicate a relatively warm and wet Late Cretaceous that becomes drier and cooler in the Early Paleocene and subsequently returns to warmer, wetter conditions by the latest Early Paleocene. During the Eocene the climate becomes relatively cool and dry once again. The discrepancies obtained from these two methods coupled with other published data are discussed in the context of the fluctuations in the temperatures of the surrounding oceans and global patterns of climate change.


Publication status:
Authors: Poole, Imogen, Cantrill, David, Utescher, Torsten

1 January, 2005
Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology / 222
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