Climatic Change

, Volume 1, Issue 4, pp 355–382 | Cite as

Effects of a variable sun at the beginning of the Cenozoic era

  • Peter Sonnenfeld


Periodic bursts of increased ultraviolet radiation, possibly caused by a long-term breakdown of the ozone layer in late Cretaceous to early Tertiary time, can explain the staggered extinctions of terrestrial, marine and flying reptiles, of invertebrate plankton feeders. Inherited protective devices and habits of surviving genera support this hypothesis. Increased radiation also explains the concurrent decrease in aridity indicated by the world-wide absence of marine salt and potash deposits from Maestrichtian, Danian, Paleocene and Eocene sediments, the poleward displacement of marine tropical faunas and the warm-temperate forests in high latitudes. A magnetic reversal is too brief an event to be responsible for the faunal changes; variations in solar radiation of the order of the Kelvin-Helmholtz time, or 30–40 million years, with superimposed shorter periodicities are a probable cause.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Allen, L. H. Jr., et al.: 1975, Solar UV radiation in terrestrial plant communities. J. Environ. Qual. 4(3), 285–294.Google Scholar
  2. Andrews, J. T., et al.: 1972, An early Tertiary fauna in north-central Baffin Island, Northwest Territories, Canada: Environment and significance. Can. J. Earth Sci. 9(3), 233–238.Google Scholar
  3. Angione, R. J., et al.: 1976, Stratospheric ozone as viewed from Chappuis band. Nature 261(5558), 289–290.Google Scholar
  4. Arehart-Treichel, J.: 1976, Life in the ocean depths. Science News 109(25), 394–395.Google Scholar
  5. Baker-Blocker, A.: 1977, Stratospheric ozone fluctuations and evolution of skin pigmentation in man. Arch. Met. Geophys. Biokl., Ser. B 25(1), 91–100.Google Scholar
  6. Barrett, E. C.: 1974, Climatology from Satellites. Methuen & Co., London, 418 pp.Google Scholar
  7. Barton, I. J., and Robertson, D. F.: 1975, Measurement of erythemally effective ultraviolet radiation and total ozone content. Nature 258(5530), 68–69.Google Scholar
  8. Black, D. I.: 1967, Cosmic ray effects and faunal extinctions at geomagnetic field reversals. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 3, 225–236.Google Scholar
  9. Blakely, R. J., and Cox, A.: 1972, Evidence for short geomagnetic polarity intervals in early Cenozoic. J. Geophys. Res. 77(35), 7065–7072.Google Scholar
  10. Bowen, R.: 1961, Paleotemperature analysis of Mesozoic Belemnoidea from Germany and Poland. J. Geol. 69(1), 75–83.Google Scholar
  11. Bramlette, M. N., and Martini, E.: 1964, The great changes in calcerous nannofossils between the Maestrichtian and Danian. Micropaleontology 10, 291–322.Google Scholar
  12. Bramlette, M. N.: 1965, Massive extinctions in biota at the end of Mesozoic time. Science 148(3678), 1696–1699.Google Scholar
  13. Bucha, V.: 1977, Causes of glaciations, climate and weather changes. In: V. Šibrava (ed.), IGCP Project 73-1-24, ‘Quaternary Glaciations in the Northern Hemisphere’, 8–36.Google Scholar
  14. Butler, R. F., et al.: 1977, Magnetostratigraphy of the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary in the San Juan Basin, New Mexico. Nature 267(5609), 318–323.Google Scholar
  15. Caviedes, C. N.: 1975, El Nino 1972: Its climatic, ecological, human and economic implications. Geogr. Rev. 65(4), 493–509.Google Scholar
  16. Chou, M. C., et al.: 1973, New mammalian genera and species from the Paleocene of Nanhsiung, N. Kwangtung. Vertebrata PalAsiatica 11(1), 31–35.Google Scholar
  17. Colbert, E. H.: 1961, Dinosaurs, their discovery and their world. Toronto, Clarke, Irwin & Co.Google Scholar
  18. Cook, J. S.: 1970, Photoreactivation in animal cells, in Giese, A. C., ed., Photophysiology. New York, Academic Press 5, 191–234.Google Scholar
  19. Cowles, R. B.: 1939, Possible implications of reptilian thermal tolerance. Science 90, 465–466.Google Scholar
  20. Cowles, R. B.: 1940, Additional implications of reptilian sensitivity to high temperature. American Naturalist 74(755), 542–561.Google Scholar
  21. Cowles, R. B.: 1945, Heat induced sterility and its possible bearing on evolution. American Naturalist 79(781), 160–175.Google Scholar
  22. Cox, A.: 1968, Length of geomagnetic polarity intervals. J. Geophys. Res. 73(10), 3247–3260.Google Scholar
  23. Cox, A.: 1969, Geomagnetic reversals. Science 163(3864), 237–239.Google Scholar
  24. Crutzen, P. A., et al.: 1975, Solar proton events: stratospheric source of nitric oxide. Science 189(4201), 457.Google Scholar
  25. Dave, J. V., and Halpern, P.: 1976, Effect of changes in ozone amount in UV-radiation received at sea level of a model atmosphere. Atmos. Environ. 10(7), 547–555.Google Scholar
  26. Dawson, M. R., et al., 1976. Paleogene terrestrial vertebrates, northernmost occurrence, Ellesmere Island, Canada. Science 192(4241), 781–782.Google Scholar
  27. Deicha, G.: 1942, Zones Bimensuelles saisonniàres et annuelles dans le gypse parisien. C. R.Soc. Géol. France 10, 83–85.Google Scholar
  28. Dietrich, G., et al.: 1975, Eine Einfuehrung in die Meereskunde. Berlin, Gebrueder Borntraeger, 3rd ed.Google Scholar
  29. Dorman, F. H.: 1968, Some Australian oxygen isotope temperatures and a theory for a 30-million world temperature cycle. J. Geol. 76(3), 297–313.Google Scholar
  30. Douglas, R. G., and Savin, S. M.: 1973. Oxygen and carbon isotope analyses of Cretaceous and Tertiary foraminifera from the central North Pacific. In E. L. Winterer et al. (eds.) Initial Reports of the Deep Sea Drilling Project, Washington, U.S. Govt. 17, 591–605.Google Scholar
  31. Douglas, R. G., and Savin, S. M.: 1975, Oxygen and carbon isotope analyses of Cretaceous and Tertiary nannofossils from Shatskiy Rise and other sites in the North Pacific Ocean. In: R. L. Larson et al., (eds.). Initial Reports of the Deep Sea Drilling Project, Washington: U.S. Govt. 32, 509–521.Google Scholar
  32. Duphorn, K.: 1976, Kommt eine neue Eiszeit? Geol. Rundschau 65(3), 845–863.Google Scholar
  33. Erikssen, R.: 1963, Possible fluctuations in atmospheric carbon dioxide due to changes in the properties of the sea. J. Geophys. Res. 68(13), 3871–3876.Google Scholar
  34. Fairbridge, R. W.: 1977, Global climatic change during the 13,500-b.p. Gothenburg geomagnetic excursion. Nature 265(5593), 430–431.Google Scholar
  35. Fisher, J.,: 1967, Fossil birds and their adaptive radiation. In Harland, W. B. et al.,(eds.), The Fossil Record. Geol. Soc. London, 133–154.Google Scholar
  36. Flohn, H.: 1964, Grundfragen der Palaeoklimatologie im Lichte einer theoretischen Klimatologie. Geol. Rundschau 54(2), 504–515.Google Scholar
  37. Fowler, W. A.: 1972, What cooks with solar neutrinos? Nature 238(5358), 24–26.Google Scholar
  38. Frederic, J. E.: 1976, Solar corpuscular emission and neutral chemistry in earth's middle atmosphere. J. Geophys. Res. 81 (19), 3179–3186.Google Scholar
  39. Gordon, W. A.: 1975, Distribution by latitude of Phanerozoic evaporite deposits. J. Geol. 83(6), 671–684Google Scholar
  40. Hammond, A. L.: 1976a. Paleoclimate: Ice age earth was cool and dry. Science 191(4226), 455.Google Scholar
  41. Hammond, A. L.: 1976b, Solar variability: Is the sun an inconstant star? Science 191(4232), 1159–1160.Google Scholar
  42. Hancock, J. M.: 1967, Some Cretaceous-Tertiary marine faunal changes. In Harland, W. B. et al.,(eds.), The Fossil Record. Geol. Soc.London, 91–104.Google Scholar
  43. Harrison, C. G. A.: 1968, Evolutionary processes and reversals of the magnetic field. Nature 217(5123), 46–47.Google Scholar
  44. Hatfield, C. B., and Camp, M. J.: 1970, Mass extinctions correlated with galactic events. Geol. Soc. Amer. Bull. 81(3), 911–914.Google Scholar
  45. Heirtzler, J. R., et al.: 1968, Marine magnetic anomalies, geomagnetic field reversals, and motions of the ocean floor and continents. J. Geophys. Res. 73(6), 2119–2136Google Scholar
  46. Herman, J. R., and Goldberg, R. A.: 1976, Solar activity and thunderstorm occurrence. Trans. Amer. Geophys. Un. 57(12), 971.Google Scholar
  47. Jerlov, N. G.: 1951: Optical studies of ocean waters. In Reports, Swedish Deep Sea Expedition 1947/1948 31(1), 1–69.Google Scholar
  48. Kalinko, M. K.: 1974, Sources of sodium chloride for deposition in great salt bodies. Intern. Geol. Rev. 16(1), 93–102.Google Scholar
  49. Katyushina, V. V., and Romanovskiy, Yu. A.: 1974, Morning-evening asymmetry of the thermosphere during a geomagnetic disturbance. Doklady Akad. Nauk SSSR, Ser. Geol. 215(5), 1057–1060; Transl. A.G.I. 215, 22–24.Google Scholar
  50. Keating, B., et al.: 1975, Late Cretaceous reversal sequence. Geology 3(2), 73–76.Google Scholar
  51. Keiner, A.: 1969, Biological aspects of UV damage. In Urbach, F., (ed.). The biological effects of UV radiation. New York, Pergamon Press, 77–82.Google Scholar
  52. Kennett, J. P., and Shackleton, N. J.: 1976, Oxygen isotopic evidence for the development of the psychrosphere 38 Myr. ago. Nature 260(5551), 513–515.Google Scholar
  53. Kielan-Jaworowska, Z.: 1975a, Late Cretaceous mammals and dinosaurs from the Gobi Desert. Amer. Scientist 63(2), 150–159.Google Scholar
  54. Kielan-Jaworowska, Z.: 1975b, Evolution of the therian mammals in the late Cretaceous of Asia. Palaeont. Polonica (33), 103–131.Google Scholar
  55. King, J.W.: 1974, Weather and the Earth's magnetic field. Nature 247(5437), 131–134.Google Scholar
  56. Koch, D. E.: 1963, Fossil plants from the lower Paleocene of the Agatdalen (Angmartusut) area, central Nugssuag Peninsula, northwestern Greenland. Medd. om Grønland 172(5), 1–120.Google Scholar
  57. Krasovskii, V. I., and Shklovskii, I. S.: 1957, The possible influence of supernova explosions on the evolution of life on earth. Akad. Nauk SSSR, Doklady 116, 197–199.Google Scholar
  58. LaBrecque, J. L., et al.: 1977, Revised magnetic polarity time scale for Late Cretaceous and Cenozoic time. Geology 5(6), 330–335.Google Scholar
  59. Landsberg, H. E., et al.: 1965, World maps of climatology. New York, Springer-Verlag.Google Scholar
  60. Larsen, R. L., and Pitman, W. C.: 1972, World-Wide correlation of Mesozoic magnetic anomalies, and its implications. Geol Soc. Amer. Bull. 83(12), 3645–3662.Google Scholar
  61. Lefond, S. J.: 1969, Handbook of world salt resources. New York, Plenum Press.Google Scholar
  62. Likens, G. E.: 1965, Measurement of background radiation in lakes. Ecology 46, 544–548.Google Scholar
  63. Liu, S. C., et al.: 1976, Effect of water vapor on destruction of ozone in stratosphere perturbed by Clx or NOx pollutants. J. Geophys. Res. 81(18), 3111–3118.Google Scholar
  64. Lockwood, G. W.: 1975, Planetary brightness changes: evidence for solar variability. Science 190(4214), 560–562.Google Scholar
  65. Lotze, F.: 1957, Steinsalz and Kalisalze. Berlin, Gebrueder Borntrager, 2 Vols.Google Scholar
  66. Lowenstam, H. A., and Epstein, S.: 1954, Paleotemperatures of the post-Aptian Cretaceous as determined by the oxygen isotope method. J. Geol. 62(3), 207–248.Google Scholar
  67. Martin, B., and Stewart, C.: 1976, Note on effect of stratospheric ozone fluctuations on mean transmitted ultraviolet. J. Appl. Meteor. 15(5), 526–527.Google Scholar
  68. Mertens, R.: 1960, The World of Amphibians and Reptiles. New York, McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  69. Meyerhoff, A. A.: 1970, Continental drift: implications of paleomagnetic studies, meteorology, physical oceanography and climatology. J. Geol. 78(1), 1–51.Google Scholar
  70. Meyerhoff, A. A., and Teichert, C.: 1971, Continental drift III. Late Paleozoic glacial centres and Devonian to Eocene coal distribution. J. Geol. 79(2), 285–321.Google Scholar
  71. Moore, T. C.: 1972, DSDP successes, failures, proposals. Geotimes 17(7), 27–32.Google Scholar
  72. Muentzing, A.: 1961, Genetic research: a survey of methods and main results. Stockholm, LTs-Forlag.Google Scholar
  73. Nalivkin, D. G.: 1973, Geology of the USSR. Edinburgh, Oliver & Boyd.Google Scholar
  74. Novozhilov, N. I.: 1954, Mestorozhdeniya mlekopitayushchikh nizhnego eotsena i verkhnego paleotsena Mongolii — Deposits of Lower Eocene and Upper Paleocene mammals in Mongolia. Trudy Mongol. Kometeta Akad. Nauk SSSR 59, 33–46.Google Scholar
  75. Ogoeva, K.: 1974, Reaktsiya ust'ichnogo apparata list'ev yachmenei na destvie estestvennoi UF-radiatsii — Reaction of the stomatal apparatus of barley leaves to the effect of natural UV radiation. Isv. Akad. Nauk Tadzhik, SSR, otd. Biol. Nauk (4), 48–52; Biol. Abstr. No. 48, 293/1975.Google Scholar
  76. Paetzold, H. K.: 1973, The influence of solar activity on the stratospheric ozone layer. Pure and Appl. Geophys. 106–108(5–7), 1308–1311.Google Scholar
  77. Parkin, D. W.: 1976, Solar constant during a glaciation. Nature 260(5546), 28–31.Google Scholar
  78. Pirozynski, K. A.: 1977, Melanins as palaeobiological and palaeoenvironmental indicators? National Museums of Canada, Syllogeus 12, 59–62.Google Scholar
  79. Poloskov, S. M.: 1974, Warming of polar thermosphere by particle streams. Doklady Akad. Nauk SSSR, Ser. Geol. 218(3), 573–575; Transl. A.G.I. 218, 6–7.Google Scholar
  80. Predtechenskiy, P. P.: 1950, Dinamika klimata v. svyaze s izmenenyami solnechnoy deyatel'nosti —Dynamics of climate in relation to changes in solar activity. Trudy glavn. geofiz. observat. im. Voeikova 19(81), 193–208.Google Scholar
  81. Ramanathan, V., et al.: 1976, Sensitivity of surface-temperature and atmospheric-temperature to perturbations in stratospheric concentration of ozone and nitrogen dioxide. J. Atmos. Sci. 33(6), 1092–1112.Google Scholar
  82. Ransom, C. J.: 1973, Magnetism and archeology. Nature 242(5399), 518–519.Google Scholar
  83. Reck, R. A.: 1976, Stratospheric ozone effects on temperature. Science 192(4239), 557–559.Google Scholar
  84. Reid, G. C., et al.: 1976, Influence of ancient solar-proton events on the evolution of life. Nature 259(5540), 177–179.Google Scholar
  85. Robinson, N.: 1966, Solar Radiation. New York, Elsevier.Google Scholar
  86. Romer, A. S. 1966, Vertebrate Paleontology. Univ. Chicago Press, 3rd edn.Google Scholar
  87. Rozhdestvenskii, A. K.: 1957, A short conclusion on the study of Mongolian fossil vertebrates. Vertebrata PalAsiatica 1(3), 169–186.Google Scholar
  88. Ruderman, M. A.: 1975, Possible consequences of nearby supernova explosions for atmospheric ozone and terrestrial life. Science 184(4141), 1079–1081.Google Scholar
  89. Rushmer, R. F., et al.: 1966, The Skin. Science 154(3747), 343–348.Google Scholar
  90. Russell, D. A.: 1977, The biotic crisis at the end of the Cretaceous period. Canadian National Museum of Natural Sciences, Syllogeus 12, 11–24.Google Scholar
  91. Russell, L. S.: 1973, Geological evidence on the extinction of some large terrestrial vertebrates. Can. J. Earth Sci. 10(20), 140–145.Google Scholar
  92. Saito, T., and Van Donk, J.: 1974, Oxygen and carbon isotope measurements of late Cretaceous and early Tertiary foraminifera. Micropaleont. 20(20), 152ff.Google Scholar
  93. Schindewolf, O. H.: 1954, Über die möglichen Ursachen der grossen erdgeschichtlichen Faunenschnitte: Neues Jahrb. Geol. Palaeont., Monatsh. 10, 457–465.Google Scholar
  94. Schindewolf, O. H.: 1962, Neokatastrophismus? Zeitschr. deutsch. geol. Ges. 114(2), 43–445.Google Scholar
  95. Schweitzer, H. J.: 1974, Die tertiären Koniferen Spitzbergens. Paläontographica, Ser. B. 149, 1–89.Google Scholar
  96. Scorer, R. S.: 1976, Commentary on ozone depletion theories. Atmos. Environ. 10(2), 177–180.Google Scholar
  97. Shakhov, A. A., et al.: 1965, UV-radiation of plants as a problem in space photophysiology. In Sisakyan, N. M., (ed.), Problems of Space Biology. Trans. NASA TTF-368, Washington, D.C. (March 1966) 4, 447–458.Google Scholar
  98. Simpson, J. F.: 1966, Evolutionary pulsations and geomagnetic polarity. Geol. Soc. Amer. Bull. 77(1), 197–203.Google Scholar
  99. Sisson, W. B., and Caldwell, M. M.: 1976, Photosynthesis, dark respiration and growth of Rumex patientia L., exposed to ultraviolet irradiance (288–315 nanometers) simulating a reduced atmospheric ozone column. Plant Physiol. 58(4), 563–568.Google Scholar
  100. Sonnenfeld, P.: 1974, The Upper Miocene evaporite basins in the Mediterranean Region — a study in palaeo-oceanography. Geol. Rundschau 63(3), 1133–1172.Google Scholar
  101. Sonnenfeld, P.: 1977, Origins of Messinian sediments in the Mediterranean Region — some constraints on their interpretation. Ann. Géol. Pays Hellén., Athens 27, 160–189.Google Scholar
  102. Stöcklin, J.: 1968, Salt deposits of the Middle East. In Mattox, R. B. et al., (eds.), Saline Deposits.Geol. Soc. Amer. Spec. Paper 88, 157–182.Google Scholar
  103. Strakhov, N. M.: 1970, Principles of Lithogenesis. New York, Consultants Bureau, 3 Vols.Google Scholar
  104. Svalgaard, L.: 1973, Solar activity and the weather. In Page, D. E. (ed.), Correlated interplanetary and Magnetospheric Observations. Dordrecht, Reidel. 627–639.Google Scholar
  105. Szalai, F. S., and McKenna, M. C.: 1971, Beginning of the age of mammals in Asia: the late Paleocene Gashata fauna, Mongolia. Bull. Amer. Mus. Nat. Hist. 144(4), 273–317.Google Scholar
  106. Tang, Y., and Chou, M. C.: 1964, The vertebrate bearing early Tertiary of South China: A Review. Vertebrate PalAsiatica, 8(20): 119–123; transl. 1965, Intern. Geol. Rev. 7(8), 1338–1352.Google Scholar
  107. Tang, Y., and Yan, D.: 1976, Notes on some mammalian fossils from the Paleocene of Qianshan and Xuancheng, Anhui. Vertebrate PalAsiatica 14(2), 91–99.Google Scholar
  108. Tappan, H.: 1968, Primary production, isotopes, extinctions and the atmosphere. Paleogeogr., Paleoclimat., Paleoecology 4, 187–210.Google Scholar
  109. Tarling, D. H., and Mitchell, J. G.: 1976, Revised Cenozoic polarity time scale. Geology 4(3), 133–136.Google Scholar
  110. Trewartha, G. T.: 1954, An Introduction to Climate, 3rd edn., McGraw-Hill, New York.Google Scholar
  111. Tverskoi, P. N.: 1962, Physics of the Atmosphere G.I.M.I.Z., Leningrad, transl. I.P.S.T. Jerusalem, 1965.Google Scholar
  112. Uffen, R. J.: 1963, Influence of the earth's core on the origin and evolution of life. Nature 198(4876), 143–144.Google Scholar
  113. Uffen, R. J.: 1965, The evolution of the interior of the earth and its effects on biological evolution. Upper Mantle Sympos., New Delhi, 1964, Intern. Un. Geol. Sci., Copenhagen (1965), 14–19.Google Scholar
  114. Ulrich, R. K.: 1975, Solar neutrinos and variations in the solar luminosity. Science 190(4215), 619–624.Google Scholar
  115. Valeton, K.: 1972, Bauxites. Elsevier Publ., New York.Google Scholar
  116. Vinot, A.: 1965, Role probable des processes biochimiques dans la formation de gypse parisien. C. R. Acad. Sci. Paris 261(18), 3650–3652.Google Scholar
  117. Waddington, C. J.: 1967, Paleomagnetic field reversals and cosmic radiation. Science 158(3803), 913–915.Google Scholar
  118. Whitten, R. C., et al.: 1976, Effect of nearby supernova explosions on atmospheric ozone. Nature 263(5576), 398–400.Google Scholar
  119. Williams, C. E.: 1972, Geological evidence relating to the origin and secular rotation of the solar system. Modern Geol. 3, 165–181.Google Scholar
  120. Williams, J. D.: 1970, Optical Properties of the Sea. Annapolis, Md. U.S. Naval Institute.Google Scholar
  121. Wollin, G., et al.: 1973, Magnetic intensity and climatic changes 1925–1970. Nature 242(5392), 34–37.Google Scholar
  122. Worsley, T. R.: 1971, The terminal Cretaceous event. Nature 230(5292), 318–320.Google Scholar
  123. Worsley, T. R.: 1974, The Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary event in the ocean. In W. W. Hay (ed.), Studies in Paleo-Oceanography. Soc. Econ. Paleont. Mineral., Spec. Publ. 20, 94–125.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Sonnenfeld
    • 1
  1. 1.University of WindsorWindsorCanada

Personalised recommendations