A detailed carbon- and oxygen-isotope stratigraphy has been generated from Upper Cretaceous coastal Chalk sections in southern England (East Kent; Culver Cliff, Isle of Wight; Eastbourne and Seaford Head, Sussex; Norfolk Coast) and the British Geological Survey (BGS) Trunch borehole, Norfolk. Data are also presented from a section through the Scaglia facies exposed near Gubbio, Italian Apennines. Wherever possible the sampling interval has been one metre or less. Both the Chalk and Scaglia carbon-isotopic curves show minor positive excursions in the mid-Cenomanian, mid- and high Turonian, basal Coniacian and highest Santonian–lowest Campanian; there is a negative excursion high in the Campanian in Chalk sections that span that interval. The well-documented Cenomanian–Turonian boundary ‘spike’ is also well displayed, as is a broad positive excursion centred on the upper Coniacian. A number of these positive excursions correlate with records of organic-carbon-rich deposition in the Atlantic Ocean and elsewhere. The remarkable similarity in the carbon-isotope curves from England and Italy enables cross-referencing of macrofossil and microfossil zones and pinpoints considerable discrepancy in the relative positions of the Turonian, Coniacian and Santonian stages.
The oxygen-isotope values of the various Chalk sections, although showing different absolute values that are presumably diagenesis-dependent, show nonetheless a consistent trend. The East Kent section, which is very poorly lithified, indicates a warming up to the Cenomanian–Turonian boundary interval, then cooling thereafter. Regional organic-carbon burial, documented for this period, is credited with causing drawdown of CO2 and initiating climatic deterioration (inverse greenhouse effect). Data from other parts of the world are consistent with the hypothesis that the Cenomanian–Turonian temperature optimum was a global phenomenon and that this interval represents a major turning point in the climatic history of the earth.