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Time scales of critical events around the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary.

Science (New York, N.Y.)

Animals, Argon, Chronology as Topic, Ecosystem, Extinction, Biological, Geologic Sediments, Mammals, Mexico, Minor Planets, Radioisotopes, Radiometric Dating

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      Abstract

      Mass extinctions manifest in Earth's geologic record were turning points in biotic evolution. We present (40)Ar/(39)Ar data that establish synchrony between the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary and associated mass extinctions with the Chicxulub bolide impact to within 32,000 years. Perturbation of the atmospheric carbon cycle at the boundary likely lasted less than 5000 years, exhibiting a recovery time scale two to three orders of magnitude shorter than that of the major ocean basins. Low-diversity mammalian fauna in the western Williston Basin persisted for as little as 20,000 years after the impact. The Chicxulub impact likely triggered a state shift of ecosystems already under near-critical stress.

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      Early-warning signals for critical transitions.

      Complex dynamical systems, ranging from ecosystems to financial markets and the climate, can have tipping points at which a sudden shift to a contrasting dynamical regime may occur. Although predicting such critical points before they are reached is extremely difficult, work in different scientific fields is now suggesting the existence of generic early-warning signals that may indicate for a wide class of systems if a critical threshold is approaching.
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        The Phanerozoic record of global sea-level change.

        We review Phanerozoic sea-level changes [543 million years ago (Ma) to the present] on various time scales and present a new sea-level record for the past 100 million years (My). Long-term sea level peaked at 100 +/- 50 meters during the Cretaceous, implying that ocean-crust production rates were much lower than previously inferred. Sea level mirrors oxygen isotope variations, reflecting ice-volume change on the 10(4)- to 10(6)-year scale, but a link between oxygen isotope and sea level on the 10(7)-year scale must be due to temperature changes that we attribute to tectonically controlled carbon dioxide variations. Sea-level change has influenced phytoplankton evolution, ocean chemistry, and the loci of carbonate, organic carbon, and siliciclastic sediment burial. Over the past 100 My, sea-level changes reflect global climate evolution from a time of ephemeral Antarctic ice sheets (100 to 33 Ma), through a time of large ice sheets primarily in Antarctica (33 to 2.5 Ma), to a world with large Antarctic and large, variable Northern Hemisphere ice sheets (2.5 Ma to the present).
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          A long-term numerical solution for the insolation quantities of the Earth

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            Author and article information

            Journal
            23393261
            10.1126/science.1230492

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