Time scale controversy: Accurate orbital calibration of the early Paleogene



[1] Timing is crucial to understanding the causes and consequences of events in Earth history. The calibration of geological time relies heavily on the accuracy of radioisotopic and astronomical dating. Uncertainties in the computations of Earth's orbital parameters and in radioisotopic dating have hampered the construction of a reliable astronomically calibrated time scale beyond 40 Ma. Attempts to construct a robust astronomically tuned time scale for the early Paleogene by integrating radioisotopic and astronomical dating are only partially consistent. Here, using the new La2010 and La2011 orbital solutions, we present the first accurate astronomically calibrated time scale for the early Paleogene (47–65 Ma) uniquely based on astronomical tuning and thus independent of the radioisotopic determination of the Fish Canyon standard. Comparison with geological data confirms the stability of the new La2011 solution back to ∼54 Ma. Subsequent anchoring of floating chronologies to the La2011 solution using the very long eccentricity nodes provides an absolute age of 55.530 ± 0.05 Ma for the onset of the Paleocene/Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), 54.850 ± 0.05 Ma for the early Eocene ash −17, and 65.250 ± 0.06 Ma for the K/Pg boundary. The new astrochronology presented here indicates that the intercalibration and synchronization of U/Pb and 40Ar/39Ar radioisotopic geochronology is much more challenging than previously thought.