Prehistoric Fossils Point to Future Climate Change
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March 31, 2010

Prehistoric Fossils Point to Future Climate Change


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The first comprehensive reconstruction of an extreme warm period shows the sensitivity of the climate system to changes in carbon dioxide (CO2) levels as well as the strong influence of ocean temperatures, heat transport from equatorial regions, and greenhouse gases on Earth's temperature.

New data allows for more accurate predictions of future climate and improved understanding of today's warming. Past warm periods provide real data on climate change and are natural laboratories for understanding the global climate system.

Scientists examined fossils from 3.3 to 3.0 million years ago, known as the mid-Pliocene warm period. Research was conducted by the Pliocene Research, Interpretation and Synoptic Mapping (PRISM) group, led by the U.S. Geological Survey.

PRISM's research  is the most comprehensive global reconstruction for any warm period and emphasizes the importance of examining the past state of Earth's climate system to understand the future.

The mid-Pliocene experienced the most extreme warming over the past 3.3 million years. Global average temperatures were 2.5°C (4.5°F) greater than today and within the range projected for the 21st century by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

"Exploring the mid-Pliocene will further understanding on the role of ocean circulation in a warming world, the impacts of altered storm tracks, polar versus tropical sensitivity, and the impacts of altered atmospheric CO2 and oceanic energy transport systems," said USGS scientist Harry Dowsett, also lead scientist for PRISM. "We used fossils dated to the mid-Pliocene to reconstruct sea surface and deepwater ocean temperatures, and will continue research by studying specific geographic areas, vegetation, sea ice extent and other environmental characteristics during the Pliocene."

Since CO2 levels during the mid-Pliocene were only slightly higher than today's levels, PRISM research suggests that a slight increase in our current CO2 level could have a large impact on temperature change. Research also shows warming of as much as 18°C, bringing temperatures from -2°C to 16°C, in the high latitudes of the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans during the mid-Pliocene. Warming in the Pacific, similar to a present day El Niño, was a characteristic of the mid-Pliocene. Global sea surface and deep water temperatures were found to be warmer than those of today, impacting the ocean's circulation system and climate. Data suggest the likely cause of mid-Pliocene warmth was a combination of several factors, including increased heat transport from equatorial regions to the poles and increased greenhouse gases.

PRISM has been chosen by the Pliocene Model Intercomparison Project of Paleoclimate Modelling Intercomparison Project Phase II as the dataset against which to run and test the performance of climate models for the Pliocene.

PRISM's primary collaborators are Columbia University, Duke University, the University of Leeds and the British Antarctic Survey.

Posted by Casey Kazan.

For more information and to view the compiled data, visit http://geology.er.usgs.gov/eespteam/prism/index.html.
Adapted from materials provided by United States Geological Survey.

Comments

Since CO2 levels during the mid-Pliocene were only slightly higher than today's levels, PRISM research suggests that a slight increase in our current CO2 level could have a large impact on temperature change.

Can we engineer the earth's recovery or get Mars terraformed in time to save humanity, i doubt in its current sophiscated society no.

Any terraforming of Mars would take at least 1500 years. The lack of a magnetosphere and techtonic activity would be a major problem in keeping an atmosphere stable. Also Mars would have a carrying capacity of only 150-200 million humans. Our only real hope at this point are the following:
1-Decrease population quickly through family planning and governmental birth rate control.
2-Suspension of democracy. The parlimentary system is to slow to evolve in quickly changing situations regarding climate. This will not be popular but it may not be a choice. Freedom or continued existence. What would you choose?
3-Geoengineering such as orbital solar shields
4-Ending capitalism and replacing it with ecologically minded socialism.
5-rebuilding wilderness regions and massive reforestation of the planet.

There are lost of other things that can be done but it is time to recognize that at least1/3 of humanity will not survive this. and that is a conservative number. Our species will be altered forever by this.

"Our species will be altered forever..." Hmmm... maybe not such a bad thing.

GRRRARGH!!!

Enough about climate change.
We're not sure if it's gonna get really hot or really cold and we can't stop it.

Put more funding into space projects so we can watch the world freeze or fry from the comfort of a space station.

Are you actually suggesting that 6 1/2 billion people migrate to space stations? what about all the other life forms on this planet? Or is okay to watch all of it die from orbit. I suggest you examine the lack of empathy in your statement dude.

As for Merlins Tears, yes I agree an altered humanity would be a good thing.

When the huge methane chlarate reserves start melting in the Arctic seabed, there is no turning back. The resulting release of methane will seal the fate of at least 50% of land mammals.

Remember that arctic areas are warming the most rapidly. Reports already point to increased release of methane in arctic regions.

The only positive about this is that perhaps the self-reinforcing feedback will be so dramatic that the resulting climate chaos would decimate economic activity, thus halting anthropogenic CO2 missions. This, at least, would save what is left of sea life by slowing down oceanic acidation through CO2 dissolution.

what a load
Heating back then was due to high sea salinity... nothing to do with oil or Carbon Dioxide,,,, the present is divorced form the past
Get over it !
Ice Age already starting in the Northern Hemisphere.....

Professor Vladimir Paar studied ice ages for decades. He says we are overdue for 70,000 years of glaciation. IPCC scientist Mojib Latif: "the weather we've seen marks the beginning of a mini-ice age". He is one of the U.N. warming guys! They claim the 30 year mini ice age is a temporary break in warming. Almost all glaciers have been growing, we still have the (NASA announced) deep solar quiet and Earth \ Sun orbital "wobble". This is consistent with the Milankovitch cycle. My interpretation is we have a minimum of 20 years of cold weather and a possibility it will turn into several hundred years like the "little ice age" but my heart tells me Professor paar has it right. In the 70's they thought the ice age possible. It turns out a warming blip is normal just prior to sinking into the real thing ice age. It's a solar cycle thing involving how the solar and planetary magnetic fields and (I think) gravitational fields interact. It seems there is a lot to it. Big quakes precede increased volcanic activity. That is a facilitator. Sub sea heat (80% of geothermal \ volcanic activity is underwater) is a facilitator driving moisture enriched and cooling skies (volcanic sulfur dioxide makes for solar reflectivity) (very dangerous).
My own crazy idea is the directional shift involved in solar wobble orbit pulls at our tectonic plates differently and exacerbates the volcanic. The geomagnetic movement (NASA announced) is a symptom I think and is associated to ice ages.
The whole mishmash of Solar system planetary, and solar magnetic and gravitational, and the Galactic pull (God help us)and how it affects solar cycle and output and the tectonic plates and quakes and geothermal and heated water and solar reflectivity, the timing in a geological sense it's all saying, stock up on food and get warm clothing. We better start adapting our agriculture. We better find more sources for fuel. The petroleum producing algae research is one thing. Professor Paar says our nuclear power resources would only last a century or so. Cap and tax is coming and I think it is someone looking for a big monetary windfall off human misery, as we try to stay warm. There was rumor of an Executive order grabbing fuel shale lands for the Federal Government. I don't believe it's coincidence. People will siphon power and money out of our climate disaster. We're all in this together. You and I won't live to see the end of it. It's time to think about preparing people, adapting and saving lives.

Finger skate are used by a range of people from those utilizing them as toys to skateboarding and related sports professionals envisioning not only their own skating maneuvers but for others as well and can include the use for planning out competition courses as skating boarding develops into an international sport.

Skate with your fingers, another feeling

But nowadays, CO2 level does not remain constant or stick. It always varies time to time & uneventfully.


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