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Climate

Global Warming; the early warning signs

by Nicolette Smith 03 Mar 2011
Global Warming; the early warning signs

Signs of Global Warming via Shutterstock

If you thought Winter 2010 was cold, think again. Over 56,000,000 years ago, our world experienced Arctic conditions which even the warmest, hardiest of UGG boots wouldn't have weathered, but after many years of glacial temperatures the Arctic experienced a sudden change.

A recent study conducted by a research team of Scientists from the University of Southampton's School of Ocean and Earth Science (SOES), based at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, have discovered that an ancient manifestation of global warming occurred in the Arctic many years before it became the go-to cause for modern-day environmental activists.

While the findings did indicate that the period of warming was something of an exception, the study did support the notion that global warming is not an isolated incident.

The study involved the collection of data from core sedimentary deposits from deep within ice packs on the Lomonosov Ridge (a submarine ridge located in the Arctic Ocean), and showed that an ancient period of Global Warming referred to as the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) took place around 56,000,000 years ago. The event saw oceanic temperatures rise to 5 degrees centigrade, and major ecological changes took place.

Amongst the many casualties of this sudden climatory transition were plant and marine life; the extinction of foraminifera (miniscule, single-celled organisms), and the mass migration of several species of Plankton (which were unable to adapt to the sudden shift in temperature). On land; many animals also began migrating to areas with a more suitable climate, and plant distribution shifted towards the Polar regions.

Researcher Dr Harding said of the findings: ''Although environmental changes associated with the PETM at low- to mid-latitude settings and high southern latitudes are well documented, we know less about these changes at high northern latitudes.''.

The Scientists combined data extracted from the Arctic drill site along with supplementary evidence discovered at other, similar locations to determine that the sea level rose considerably over a certain period of time, and that this expansion peaked after some 13,000 years.

Dr Harding went on to explain that the evidence was not conclusive: ''Information from other Arctic sites is needed for a better understanding of PETM environmental conditions, such data can then in turn be used in computer models which will improve our understanding not only of past climatic conditions but also enhance our ability to predict future perturbations.''

Given the current thinking about pollution, greenhouse emissions and our environmental responsibilities, the results of the study are perhaps more revealing than ever about the Earth's climate and the fragile nature of the world we live in.


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