Sea-floor hydrothermal activity links climate to tectonics: the Eocene carbon dioxide greenhouse

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Science  11 Jan 1985:
Vol. 227, Issue 4683, pp. 166-169
DOI: 10.1126/science.11536555


Two important findings of recent ocean floor drilling in the southeast Pacific (Deep Sea Drilling Project Leg 92) are (i) that sea-floor hydrothermal activity may fluctuate through time by as much as an order of magnitude and (ii) that episodes of greatest hydrothermal flux correspond to times when ridge-transform plate boundaries are undergoing major changes in their configuration rather than to known times of increased spreading rate or volcanism. Evidence is presented here in support of the hypothesis that heightened hydrothermal activity induced by the Eocene tectonic activity caused a global greenhouse effect, which may represent the long-sought-after historical analog to the carbon dioxide-induced global warming expected to occur by the middle of the next century.