Researchers have uncovered new evidence of a sudden, fatal dose of global warming 180 million years ago during the time of the dinosaurs. The scientists’ findings, published in Nature, 14 September, could provide vital clues about the climate change we are experiencing today.
PhD student Dave Kemp, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, and supervisors Drs. Angela Coe and Anthony Cohen from the Open University Department of Earth Sciences, along with Dr. Lorenz Schwark of the University of Cologne, discovered evidence suggesting that vast amounts of methane gas were released to the atmosphere in three massive ‘methane burps’ or pulses. The addition of methane, a greenhouse gas, to the atmosphere had a severe impact on the environment, warming Earth about 10°C, and resulting in the extinction of a large number of species on land and in the oceans.
Dr Angela Coe says: “We’ve known about this event for a few years through earlier work by our team and others, but there’s been a great deal of uncertainty about its precise size, duration, and underlying cause. What our present study shows is that this methane release was not just one event, but 3 consecutive pulses that occurred within a 60,000 year interval. Importantly, our data demonstrate that each individual pulse was very rapid. Also, whilst the methane release was very quick, weve found that the recovery took much longer, occurring over a few hundred thousand years.”
Owen Gaffney | alfa
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