Geologic Record of Atmospheric Circulation on Tectonic Time Scales

  • David K. Rea
Part of the NATO ASI Series book series (ASIC, volume 282)


There exists a reasonable geologic record of atmospheric circulation, based on information extracted from eolian dust preserved in deep-sea sediments, that extends back to the late Cretaceous in the northern hemisphere and to the late Oligocene in the southern hemisphere. On tectonic timescales of 500,000 years or longer, important changes in atmospheric circulation do not always occur in conjunction with known paleoenvironmental changes, such as times of ice buildup on continents. There appears to be essentially no change in wind intensity across the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary. The single greatest change in wind intensity in the Cenozoic occurs at the Paleocene-Eocene boundary, a reduction of higher intensity Mesozoic and Paleocene circulation to the sluggish atmosphere of the middle Tertiary. Circulation intensity remained low throughout the Eocene and increased beginning in the Oligocene to a PlioPleistocene maxima. Southern hemisphere records show that the mid-Miocene increase in ice volume at 13 to 14 Ma does not correspond to an increase in wind intensity, suggesting that the inferred direct correspondence of glacial buildup to polar cooling may not always hold. There appears to be little response to the onset of northern hemisphere glaciation in the records of southern hemisphere atmospheric circulation — one indication of the independent behavior of the two hemispheres.


Atmospheric Circulation Late Cretaceous Late Miocene Trade Wind Eolian Deposition 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • David K. Rea
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Geological SciencesThe University of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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