Modeling evidences for global warming, Arctic seawater freshening, and sluggish oceanic circulation during the Early Toarcian anoxic event



[1] The paleoecological disturbances recorded during the Early Toarcian warming event (183 Myr ago), including marine anoxia, sea level rise, seawater acidification, carbonate production crisis, and species extinctions, are often regarded as past examples of Earth's possible responses to the rapid emergence of super greenhouse conditions. However, physical mechanisms explaining both the global and local expressions of paleoenvironmental events are still highly debated. Here we analyze the paleoclimatic and paleoceanographic consequences of increases in atmospheric pCO2 levels at a multiscale resolution using a fully coupled ocean–atmosphere model (FOAM). We show that, in association with stronger high-latitude precipitation rates and enhanced continental runoff, the demise of polar sea ice due to the global warming event involved a regional freshening of Arctic surface seawaters. These disturbances lead to progressive slowdowns of the global oceanic circulation accountable for widespread ocean stratification and bottom anoxia processes in deep oceanic settings and epicontinental basins. In agreement with very negative oxygen isotope values measured on fossil shells from the NW Tethys, our simulations also show that recurrent discharges of brackish and nutrient-rich Arctic surface waters through the Viking Corridor could have led to both vertical and geographical gradients in salinity and seawater δ18O in the NW Tethyan seas. Locally contrasted conditions in water mass density and rises in productivity rates due to strong nutrient supplies could partly explain the regional severity of the anoxic event in the restricted Euro-boreal domains, as it has been previously suggested and modeled regionally.