The middle Eocene to early Oligocene period represents the most important transition in Earth’s climate: from greenhouse conditions to the icehouse conditions of the present day. This global transition was preceded by long-term cooling with superposed short-term variations in various marine proxies, which indicate instability in the paleoceanographic state prior to the key climatic transition. We propose to test the hypothesis that global variations in climatic conditions were synchronous with large variations in circulation in the Neo-Tethys Ocean. Tectonic closure of the gateway between the Arabian and Eurasian plates represents a threshold that caused late Eocene paleoceanographic variations in the Neo-Tethys and in global ocean circulation. The premise of this proposal is that new paleomagnetic and environmental studies of Eocene sequences from the Tethys sector and Indian Ocean drill cores can provide important insights about the timing and nature of paleoclimatic events and sedimentary processes that affected the Eocene oceans. We will develop new high-resolution magnetostratigraphies from each proposed section to determine the timing of the bio-magnetic and climatic events. Sites in the Indian Ocean and sections in Italy, Egypt and Turkey are the best candidates. We propose a multidisciplinary study that involves detailed bio-magnetostratigraphy, environmental magnetism and cyclostratigraphic astronomical calibration. Paleobiological abundances, isotopic analyses and geochemistry will then be used to develop an integrated view of paleoceanographic events in this key interval of geological time. The quantitative dataset to be obtained will enable us to test the hypothesis that paleoceanographic variations in the Neo-Tethys were related to global Eocene climatic changes and variations in ocean circulation.
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