Sulfur isotopic composition of cenozoic seawater sulfate

Science. 1998 Nov 20;282(5393):1459-62. doi: 10.1126/science.282.5393.1459.


A continuous seawater sulfate sulfur isotope curve for the Cenozoic with a resolution of approximately 1 million years was generated using marine barite. The sulfur isotopic composition decreased from 19 to 17 per mil between 65 and 55 million years ago, increased abruptly from 17 to 22 per mil between 55 and 45 million years ago, remained nearly constant from 35 to approximately 2 million years ago, and has decreased by 0.8 per mil during the past 2 million years. A comparison between seawater sulfate and marine carbonate carbon isotope records reveals no clear systematic coupling between the sulfur and carbon cycles over one to several millions of years, indicating that changes in the burial rate of pyrite sulfur and organic carbon did not singularly control the atmospheric oxygen content over short time intervals in the Cenozoic. This finding has implications for the modeling of controls on atmospheric oxygen concentration.