In March 2009, the R/V JOIDES Resolution returned to operations after its extended refit and began with a drilling program ideally suited to its drilling strengths, the Pacific Equatorial Age Transect (PEAT, IODP Exp 320/321; Fig. 1A).
The PEAT drilling program was developed to understand how a major oceanic region evolved over the Cenozoic Era (65–0 Ma) and how it interacted with global climate. It specifically targeted the interval between 52 Ma and 0 Ma and drilled a series of sites that originated on the paleoequator. These sites have since been moved to the northwest by plate tectonics. The equatorial Pacific is an important target for paleocean ographic study because it is a significant ‘cog’ in the Earth’s climate machine, representing roughly half of the total tropical oceans that in turn represent roughly half of the total global ocean area. Prior drilling in both the Deep Sea Drilling Project (DSDP) and the Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) outlined the changes that have occurred through the Cenozoic (e.g., van Andel et al., 1975; Pisias et al., 1995). Not only did the earlier work fail to cover sufficient time intervals but also many of the sites were cored with ‘first-generation’ scientific drilling technology with incomplete and disturbed sediment recovery and thus cannot be used for detailed studies. ODP Legs 138 and 199 provide the best sample material from previous drilling, but each leg recovered sections spanning less than 10 million years suitable for cyclostratigraphy (the use of earths orbital cycles, recorded in sediments, as a measure of time). Up until the PEAT program it was difficult to achieve more than a reconnaissance of the environmental changes that have occurred in the equatorial Pacific. The PEAT program was designed to augment previous drilling and collect undisturbed sediments that could be spliced into a continuous, high-resolution environmental record of the eastern equatorial Pacific for the entire period from 56–0 Ma to present.
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