Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Getting Warmer? Prehistoric Climate Can Help Forecast Future Changes

Date:
November 25, 2008
Source:
United States Geological Survey
Summary:
New data on a prehistoric warm period allow 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.

Pliocene vs. modern sea surface temperature anomaly.
Credit: Image courtesy of United States Geological Survey

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. 

Related Articles


New data allow 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 provides objective, unbiased data for climate modelers to better understand the environment in which we live and for decision makers to make informed adaptation and mitigation strategies that yield the greatest benefits to society and the environment," said Senior Advisor to USGS Global Change Programs Thomas Armstrong. "This 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.

For more information and to view the compiled data, visit http://geology.er.usgs.gov/eespteam/prism/index.html.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by United States Geological Survey. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

United States Geological Survey. "Getting Warmer? Prehistoric Climate Can Help Forecast Future Changes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 November 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081124141055.htm>.
United States Geological Survey. (2008, November 25). Getting Warmer? Prehistoric Climate Can Help Forecast Future Changes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081124141055.htm
United States Geological Survey. "Getting Warmer? Prehistoric Climate Can Help Forecast Future Changes." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081124141055.htm (accessed December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Fish Species Discovered, Setting Record for World's Deepest

New Fish Species Discovered, Setting Record for World's Deepest

Buzz60 (Dec. 22, 2014) — A new species of fish is discovered living five miles beneath the ocean surface, making it the deepest living fish on earth. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Lava Inches Closer to Highway

Raw: Lava Inches Closer to Highway

AP (Dec. 21, 2014) — Officials have opened a new road on Hawaii's Big Island for drivers to take care of their daily needs if encroaching lava from Kilauea Volcano crosses a highway and cuts them off from the rest of the island. (Dec. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Cheap Oil Help Fix U.S. Roads?

Could Cheap Oil Help Fix U.S. Roads?

Newsy (Dec. 21, 2014) — As falling oil prices boost Americans' spending power, the U.S. government is also gaining flexibility from savings on oil. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Russian Surfers Brave Icy Cold Waters

Raw: Russian Surfers Brave Icy Cold Waters

AP (Dec. 20, 2014) — Surfers in Russia's biggest port city on the Pacific Ocean, Vladivostok, were enjoying the sport on Saturday despite below freezing temperatures and icy cold waters. (Dec. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins