The vast majority of theses in this collection are open access and freely available. There are a small number of theses that have access restricted to the WWU campus. For off-campus access to a thesis labeled "Campus Only Access," please log in here with your WWU universal ID, or talk to your librarian about requesting the restricted thesis through interlibrary loan.

Date Permissions Signed


Date of Award

Fall 2021

Document Type

Masters Thesis

Department or Program Affiliation


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Foreman, Brady

Second Advisor

Ponton, Camilo

Third Advisor

Clark, Douglas H., 1961-

Fourth Advisor

Pfeiffer, Allison


Paleosols in the Willwood Formation of the Bighorn Basin, Wyoming contain a sedimentary and geochemical record of several early Eocene hyperthermal (rapid, global warming) events including the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) and the Eocene Thermal Maximum 2 (ETM2). Numerous studies of the PETM indicate environmental shifts including an overall decrease in precipitation and soil moisture, but the hydrologic response to the subsequent smaller Eocene hyperthermals remains poorly understood. In order to estimate potential precipitation changes during ETM2, I sampled floodplain paleosol horizons from Willwood Formation strata below, within, and above the stratigraphic carbon isotope excursion (CIE) that marks the ETM2. Paleosol profiles are overall thinner and more weakly developed in the ETM2 CIE interval, which may suggest a higher sedimentation rate on the floodplain during the hyperthermal. Geochemical proxy measurements of mean annual precipitation (MAP) show variability across the ETM2 CIE interval, with the driest intervals ~850 mm/yr and wetter intervals ~1300 mm/yr. MAP estimates average ~1175 mm/yr in the pre-ETM2 interval, ~1150 mm/yr for the duration of ETM2, and ~1100 mm/yr in the post-ETM2 phase. These MAP values are in the same range as previous PETM studies, but unlike the PETM there is no definitive systematic shift in MAP that occurs in conjunction with the ETM2. The hydrologic response of continental interiors does not appear to scale linearly between hyperthermal events of differing magnitudes based on the Bighorn Basin data set.




paleosol, paleoclimate, Eocene, ETM2, Wyoming, floodplain, rainfall, Bighorn Basin, climate change, soil


Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Subject – LCSH

Paleoclimatology--Wyoming--Big Horn--Eocene; Paleopedology--Wyoming--Big Horn; Precipitation variability--Wyoming--Big Horn; Climatic changes--Research

Geographic Coverage

Big Horn (Wyo.)








Copying of this document in whole or in part is allowable only for scholarly purposes. It is understood, however, that any copying or publication of this document for commercial purposes, or for financial gain, shall not be allowed without the author’s written permission.

Included in

Geology Commons