The history of the Arctic Ocean during the Cenozoic era (0–65 million years ago) is largely unknown from direct evidence. Here we present a Cenozoic palaeoceanographic record constructed from >400 m of sediment core from a recent drilling expedition to the Lomonosov ridge in the Arctic Ocean. Our record shows a palaeoenvironmental transition from a warm ‘greenhouse’ world, during the late Palaeocene and early Eocene epochs, to a colder ‘icehouse’ world influenced by sea ice and icebergs from the middle Eocene epoch to the present. For the most recent 14 Myr, we find sedimentation rates of 1–2 cm per thousand years, in stark contrast to the substantially lower rates proposed in earlier studies; this record of the Neogene reveals cooling of the Arctic that was synchronous with the expansion of Greenland ice (3.2 Myr ago) and East Antarctic ice (14 Myr ago). We find evidence for the first occurrence of ice-rafted debris in the middle Eocene epoch (45 Myr ago), some 35 Myr earlier than previously thought; fresh surface waters were present at 49 Myr ago, before the onset of ice-rafted debris. Also, the temperatures of surface waters during the Palaeocene/Eocene thermal maximum (55 Myr ago) appear to have been substantially warmer than previously estimated. The revised timing of the earliest Arctic cooling events coincides with those from Antarctica, supporting arguments for bipolar symmetry in climate change.

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We thank the IODP European Science Operator (ESO), led by the British Geological Survey; the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat, who provided shiptime for Oden as well as the ice and fleet management; icebreaker Captains Årnell, Backman, Davidjan, Haave, Shirley, Smith and Vikström, and the crews of Oden, Vidar Viking and Sovetskiy Soyuz; and Seacore Ltd, who provided the drilling services. This research used samples and data provided by the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program. Author Contributions J.B. was the lead investigator on the ACEX proposal to IODP. K.M. and J.B. conducted much of the project planning with support from J.F. J.B. and K.M. led the expedition. Ship- and shore-based core analyses were conducted by the IODP 302 science party (H.B., S.C.C., T.C., G.R.D., F.E., J.G., M.J., R.W.J., M.K., J.K., N.K., A.K., N.M., J.M., T.C.M., D.M., J.O., M.O., H.P., B.R., D.R., T.S., D.C.S., R.S., K.S., I.S., N.S., K.T., M.W. and M.Y.). Additional sediment analyses were conducted by M.F. and P.K. Geophysical data were collected and analysed by W.J. and Y.K.

Author information


  1. Graduate School of Oceanography & Department of Ocean Engineering, University of Rhode Island, Narragansett, Rhode Island, 02882, USA

    • Kathryn Moran
  2. Department of Ocean Engineering, University of Rhode Island

    • Kathryn Moran
  3. Department of Geology & Geochemistry, Stockholm University, SE-106 91, Stockholm, Sweden

    • Jan Backman
    •  & Martin Jakobsson
  4. Laboratory of Palaeobotany & Palynology, Department of Biology, Utrecht University, Utrecht, 3584 DC, The Netherlands

    • Henk Brinkhuis
  5. Department of Geological Sciences, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, 02912, USA

    • Steven C. Clemens
  6. US Geological Survey, Reston, Virginia, 20192, USA

    • Thomas Cronin
  7. Department of Earth Science, Rice University, Houston, Texas, 77251, USA

    • Gerald R. Dickens
  8. Département de Géologie et Océanographie, Université Bordeaux, Talence, 33405, France

    • Frédérique Eynaud
  9. Department of Geophysics, CEREGE (CNRS), France, 13545, Aix-en-Provence

    • Jérôme Gattacceca
  10. Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences, Yamagata University, Yamagata, 990-8560, Japan

    • Richard W. Jordan
  11. Department of Earth Sciences, University College London, London, WC1E 6BT, UK

    • Michael Kaminski
  12. Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island, 02882, Narragansett, USA

    • John King
    • , Matthew O'Regan
    • , David C. Smith
    •  & John Farrell
  13. Norwegian Polar Institute, Polar Environmental Center, Tromsø, 9296, Norway

    • Nalan Koc
  14. Department of Lithology & Geochemistry, VNIIOkeangeologia, St Petersburg, 190121, Russia

    • Alexey Krylov
  15. Earth Sciences, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, 02215, USA

    • Nahysa Martinez
  16. Alfred Wegener Institute Foundation for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven, D-27515, Germany

    • Jens Matthiessen
    • , Ruediger Stein
    •  & Wilfried Jokat
  17. British Geological Survey, Edinburgh, Murchison House, EH9 3LA, UK

    • David McInroy
  18. Geological Sciences, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 48109, USA

    • Theodore C. Moore
  19. Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Kyushu University, Fukuoka, 812-8581, Japan

    • Jonaotaro Onodera
    •  & Kozo Takahashi
  20. National Oceanography Centre, University of Southampton, Southampton, SO14 3ZH, UK

    • Heiko Pälike
  21. Department of Geography & Environment, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, AB24 3UF, UK

    • Brice Rea
  22. Department of Geology, Paleontology & Geophysics, University of Padova, Padova, 35137, Italy

    • Domenico Rio
  23. Institute for Research on Earth Evolution (IFREE), Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC), Yokosuka, 237-0061, Japan

    • Tatsuhiko Sakamoto
  24. Department of Geology & Environmental Science, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia, 22807, USA

    • Kristen St John
  25. Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences, Nagoya University, Nagoya, Chikusa, 464-8602, Japan

    • Itsuki Suto
  26. Institute of Geology & Paleontology, Tohoku University, Sendai City, 980-8578, Japan

    • Noritoshi Suzuki
  27. Institute of Geoscience, Geological Survey of Japan, Ibaraki, 305-8567, Japan

    • Mahito Watanabe
  28. Graduate School of Environmental Earth Science, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, 060-0810, Japan

    • Masanobu Yamamoto
  29. Leibniz-Institute of Marine Sciences, IFM-GEOMAR, Kiel, 24148, Germany

    • Martin Frank
  30. Paul Scherrer Institute, ETH-Hönggerberg, Zurich, CH-8093, Switzerland

    • Peter Kubik
  31. Department of Earth Science, University of Bergen, Bergen, Allegaten 41, N-5007, Norway

    • Yngve Kristoffersen


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Correspondence to Kathryn Moran.

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