The changes in the topography on the continents, ocean bathymetry, and sea level due to mantle convection and plate tectonics necessarily have an impact on the physical state and circulation of the ocean, as well as global-scale biogeochemical cycling of key constituents such as carbon and oxygen. However, the challenge is to determine precisely how the ocean and the atmosphere respond to these tectonically-forced changes.
Important measures of this response include ocean temperature and isolation of the deep ocean from the surface, the frequency and extent of hypoxia and/or anoxia in the benthos, polar ice, and the concentration of atmosphere carbon. As part of the Open Earth Systems project we will examine tectonically-forced changes to the ocean-atmosphere system using a coupled climate model that predicts the state of the surface environment in terms of the radiation at the top of the atmosphere, atmospheric greenhouse gases and aerosols, and the distribution of continents and ocean bathymetry. The biogeochemical code for tracking carbon and oxygen and other constituents will be coupled to the climate model. First we will perform a series of numerical experiments to determine how the individual components of tectonic forcing change the ocean and atmosphere. Then we plan to develop a full paleoclimatic simulation capability that uses the output of our plate-mantle reconstructions to simulate the global climate system at key times in the geologic past, such as during continental breakup and formation of the Atlantic.