Reconstruction of past climate provides clues about future climate change

Monday, June 24th, 2019

Sediment cores drilled from the seafloor by the JOIDES Resolution research vessel helped researchers create a timeline of temperature throughout the Eocene. New research results indicate that greenhouse gases were the main driver of climate change throughout the Eocene, a period of time between 56 million years and 34 million years ago, and a time that the Earth was at its warmest in the past 66 million years. The study, led by Margot Cramwinckel (Utrecht University) and professor Matthew Huber (Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences) combined an analysis of these seafloor sediments with climate models to examine whether the extreme shifts in the global climate during that period were influenced by changing ocean circulation patterns or by carbon dioxide. Their research, which took 4 years of continuous computing to complete, found that rising carbon dioxide emissions were the cause of warming global temperatures—in this case, the emissions were likely from volcanoes. The study also points out that the polar regions experienced more severe warming than other parts of the planet. These findings should help scientists better understand the present-day changes in the Arctic and improve projections of future climate change impacts, like sea-level rise.

Cramwinckel, M. J., M. Huber, I. J. Kocken, C. Agnini, P. K. Bijl, S. M. Bohaty, J. Frieling, A. Goldner, F. J. Hilgen, E. L. Kip, F. Peterse, R. van der Ploeg, U. Röhl, S. Schouten and A. Sluijs (2018). Synchronous tropical and polar temperature evolution in the Eocene. Nature, 559




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