Project highlights

  • Work within major EU-Industry collaborative project scheduled to acquire new oceanic crustal records of North Atlantic Igneous Province activity in 2021
  • Use new seismic data to derive first continuous history of magma productivity within Europe-Greenland break-up zone across Paleocene-Eocene boundary
  • Augment our ground-breaking stochastic model of N Atlantic carbon emissions by adding mantle-derived carbon from break-up zone for first time

Overview

Large Igneous Provinces (LIPs) are associated with the largest climate perturbations in Earth’s history.  The North Atlantic Igneous Province (NAIP) and Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) constitute an exemplar of this association.  The PETM is the closest deep-time analogue of anthropogenic environmental change, as measured by carbon emissions to the atmosphere and associated global warming.  Establishing the source of the carbon emissions that drove the PETM is therefore of urgent interest.

However, it has not yet been possible to prove whether the NAIP was a principal driver of PETM climate change because we lack a complete record of NAIP magma productivity.  The waning phase of NAIP magma productivity during the earliest Eocene is well documented by deep seismic profiles across oceanic crust between Europe and Greenland.  But the latest Paleocene waxing phase of NAIP activity has not yet been measured using oceanic crust because seafloor spreading between Europe and Greenland did not begin until the Eocene.

To address this problem, the €1.2M EU-Industry funded PORO-CLIM project will acquire the first ever continuous oceanic crustal record of NAIP magma productivity.  Our main CLIMate science objective can only be addressed by exploring the little-known POrcupine and ROckall and passive margins, offshore Ireland (hence project PORO-CLIM).  Break-up at these margins occurred during the late Cretaceous, so we will retrieve a continuous oceanic crustal record across the Paleocene-Eocene boundary.  PORO-CLIM data acquisition will take place in summer 2021, so the successful CENTA student will be involved in processing and interpretation of the new data from the beginning.

Host

University of Birmingham

Theme

  • Climate and Environmental Sustainability
  • Dynamic Earth

Supervisors

Project investigator

  •  Stephen M Jones, U Birmingham, UK

 

Co-investigators

  •  John R Hopper, Geological Survey of Denmark & Greenland
  • Sarah Greene, U Birmingham, UK

How to apply

Methodology

The new seismic records will allow the PORO-CLIM team to verify and augment the ground-breaking carbon emissions model recently developed at the University of Birmingham.  This is the first predictive model of carbon emissions flux from any proposed PETM carbon source that is directly constrained by observations of the geological structures that controlled the emissions.  The successful CENTA researcher will work within the PORO-CLIM team to develop a new continuous timeline across Paleocene-Eocene boundary of magma productivity within Europe-Greenland break-up zone, constrained at its southern end by the PORO-CLIM data and projected northward using existing data.  This magma productivity record will allow us to augment the existing NAIP emissions model, based on emissions from the intra-continental continental igneous sills only, to include lava eruptions and sill intrusions within the Europe-Greenland break-up zone.

Training and skills

This multi-disciplinary project provides particularly wide-ranging training opportunities across solid earth and climate science.  Initially, the student will work alongside partners in Copenhagen, Birmingham and Dublin to learn how marine seismic data is acquired and processed to infer past mantle temperatures and magma productivity.  Subsequently, the student will learn to operate the ground-breaking carbon emissions model developed at U Birmingham, and could also opt to model the fate of these emissions using the GENIE carbon cycle model.  The student will have the opportunity to join in development of new proposals to further explore the frontier PORO-CLIM study area.

 

Partners and collaboration

Steve Jones (Birmingham) leads the international PORO-CLIM project.  Together with Sarah Greene (Birmingham), he developed new stochastic carbon emissions modelling that potentially links the NAIP and PETM.

John Hopper, Thomas Funck (GEUS = Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland) and Per Trinhammer (Aarhus, Denmark) are overseeing acquisition and initial data processing of PORO-CLIM seismic data.

Brian O’Reilly (Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies, Ireland) is coordinating use of RV Celtic Explorer and providing local information on the PORO-CLIM study area.

David van Rooij (Ghent, Belgium) and Aggeliki Georgiopoulou (Brighton) are studying the Paleocene-Eocene sediment contourite drifts imaged on the PORO-CLIM dataset.

Further details

Contact Dr Stephen Jones (s.jones.4@bham.ac.uk) for project-specific information.

Applications need to be submitted via the University of Birmingham postgraduate portal, https://sits.bham.ac.uk/lpages/LES068.htm, by midnight 11.01.2021. Please first check whether the primary supervisor is within Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, or in Biosciences, and click on the corresponding PhD program on the application page.

This application should include

  • a brief cover letter, CV, and the contact details for at least two referees
  • a CENTA application form
  • the supervisor and title of the project you are applying for under the Research Information section of the application form.

Referee’s will be invited to submit their references once you submit your application, but we strongly encourage applicants to ensure referees are aware of your submission and expecting a reference request from us. Students are also encouraged to visit and explore the additional information available on the CENTA website.

Possible timeline

Year 1

Work alongside PORO-CLIM seismic acquisition and processing team (GEUS, Copenhagen) to familiarise yourself with the new dataset and existing N Atlantic seismic data.  Integrate new and legacy data to derive continuous history of magma productivity within Europe-Greenland break-up zone across Paleocene-Eocene boundary.

Year 2

In collaboration with existing doctoral and post-doctoral researchers studying the NAIP and PETM at Birmingham, augment our ground-breaking stochastic model of N Atlantic carbon emissions by adding mantle-derived carbon from break-up zone.

Year 3

Opportunity to follow up own interests in solid earth or climate science directions in collaboration with PORO-CLIM partners.  Possible avenues include modelling of lithosphere-asthenopshere interaction processes during LIP initiation, the deep marine contourite sedimentary record across the PETM in the N Atlantic, or PETM carbon-cycle modelling with cGENIE.

 

Further reading

Jones SM, Hoggett M, Greene S, Dunkley Jones T.  Large Igneous Province thermogenic greenhouse gas flux could have initiated Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum climate change.  Nature Communications.  10, 5547 (2019) https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-12957-1.

COVID-19

PORO-CLIM data acquisition is currently scheduled for April-May 2021 by RV Celtic Explorer cruise CE21012.  Funding for this acquisition is ring-fenced and can be rolled over to subsequent years.  Covid-related postponement to 2022 would mean that the student could join the cruise itself.  All project-specific training and data analysis could be done by remote working if necessary.  The supervisory team guarantees considerable flexibility to shift topic within marine geophysics, large igneous province and climate system modelling, in response to the dataset eventually acquired and the evolving Covid situation.