Ancient Global Warming Was Jarring, Not Subtle, Study Finds

From a planet whose landscape was buried in ice miles thick, the Earth convulsed into an ice-free world covered in drifts of wind-blown dust and sparse vegetation, in spasm after spasm of temperature shifts that rose and fell 7 to 18 degrees at a time.

Published: 06-Jan-2007

Foreshadowing potential climate chaos to come, early global warming caused unexpectedly severe and erratic temperature swings as rising levels of greenhouse gases helped transform Earth, a team led by researchers at UC Davis said Thursday.

The global transition from ice age to greenhouse 300 million years ago was marked by repeated dips and rises in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and wild swings in temperature, with drastic effects on forests and vegetation, the researchers reported in the journal Science.

"It was a real yo-yo," said UC Davis geochemist Isabel Montanez, who led researchers from five universities and the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in a project funded by the National Science Foundation. "Should we expect similar but faster climate behavior in the future? One has to question whether that is where we are headed."

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