Publication: Ocean Circulation in the Toarcian (Early Jurassic): A Key Control on Deoxygenation and Carbon Burial on the European Shelf


Key Points:

  • The southern European Shelf remained oxygenated during the Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic Event.
  • Ocean dynamics, notably the Tethyan clockwise gyre, largely controlled bottom water oxygen concentrations on the European Shelf.
  • Organic carbon burial in the European Shelf likely contributed to the termination of the Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic Event.

Link to pdf: RuvalcabaBaroni2018_PaleoceanographyPaleoclimatology


The Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic Event (T-OAE, ∼183 Myr) was a long-lasting episode of ocean deoxygenation during the Early Jurassic. The event is related to a period of global warming and characterized by major perturbations to the hydrological and carbon cycles with high rates of organic matter burial in shelf seas. Ocean circulation during the Toarcian and its influence on marine biogeochemical cycles are still not fully understood. Here we assess the spatial extent of anoxia in the NW Tethys Ocean during the T-OAE, the relationship with ocean circulation and the impact on organic carbon burial, using new and existing sedimentary records from the European Epicontinental Shelf in combination with general circulation model results. We demonstrate that bottom waters on the southwestern part of the shelf were mainly oxic during the T-OAE, while those in the northeastern basins were mostly anoxic or even sulfidic. Results for two ocean-atmosphere models (Fast Ocean-Atmosphere Model and Massachusetts Institute of Technology general circulation model) suggest the presence of a strong clockwise gyre over the European Epicontinental Shelf, which brought oxygenated equatorial waters from the Tethys Ocean to the southern shelf. The northward limb of the gyre was significantly weakened due to the rough bathymetry of the northern shelf, making this relative small region highly sensitive to local ocean stratification. These sluggish ocean dynamics promoted bottom water anoxia and enhanced burial of organic carbon in the northeastern basins, which accounted for 3–5% of the total carbon extracted from the ocean-atmosphere system as recorded by the positive carbon isotope shift.

Ruvalcaba Baroni, I., Pohl, A., van Helmond, N.A.G.M., Papadomanolaki, N.M., Coe, A.L., Cohen, A.S., van de Shootbrugge, B., Donnadieu, Y., Slomp, C.P. Ocean circulation in the Toarcian (Early Jurassic): a key control on deoxygenation and carbon burial on the European Shelf. Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology. doi:10.1029/2018PA003394.


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