Nutrients as the dominant control on the spread of anoxia and euxinia across the Cenomanian-Turonian oceanic anoxic event (OAE2): Model-data comparison



[1] The Cenomanian-Turonian oceanic anoxic event (OAE2) is characterized by large perturbations in the oxygen and sulfur cycles of the ocean, potentially resulting from changes in oxygen supply (via oxygen solubility and ocean circulation) and in marine productivity. We assess the relative impact of these mechanisms, comparing model experiments with a new compilation of observations for seafloor dysoxia/anoxia and photic zone euxinia. The model employed is an intermediate-complexity Earth system model which accounts for the main ocean dynamics and biogeochemistry of the Cretaceous climate. The impact of higher temperature and marine productivity is evaluated in the model as a result of higher atmospheric carbon dioxide and oceanic nutrient concentrations. The model shows that temperature is not alone able to reproduce the observed patterns of oceanic redox changes associated with OAE2. Observations are reproduced in the model mainly via enhanced marine productivity due to higher nutrient content (responsible for 85% of the change). Higher phosphate content could have been sustained by increased chemical weathering and phosphorus regeneration from anoxic sediments, which in turn induced an enhanced nitrogen nutrient content of the ocean via nitrogen fixation. The model also shows that the presence of seafloor anoxia, as suggested by black-shale deposition in the proto-North Atlantic Ocean before the event, might be the result of the silled shape and lack of deep-water formation of this basin at the Late Cretaceous. Overall our model-data comparison shows that OAE2 anoxia was quasi-global spreading from 5% of the ocean volume before the event to at least 50% during OAE2.