A team of scientists led by Yale geologists offers a new perspective on the nature of changing climatic conditions across this greenhouse-to-icehouse transition—one that refutes earlier theories and has important implications for predicting future climate changes.
Detailed in the February 27 issue of Science, their data disproves a long-held idea that massive ice growth in the Antarctic was accompanied by little to no global temperature change.
This report shows that before the Southern Hemisphere ice expansion, high-latitude temperatures were at least 10°C (about 18˚F) warmer than previously estimated and that there was a 5˚C - 10˚C drop in surface-water temperature during the climate transition.
"Previous reconstructions gave no evidence of high-latitude cooling," according to senior author Mark Pagani, professor of geology and geophysics at Yale. "Our data demonstrate a clear temperature drop in both hemispheres during this time."
Their conclusions are based on sea-surface "temperature proxies" – calculations of temperature based on the distribution of specific organic molecules from ancient plankton that only lived at certain temperatures and were later preserved in ocean sediments. These molecules were assayed in ocean cores collected by the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) and earlier marine programs that study Earth history by coring deep-ocean sediments and crust around the world.
"Temperatures in some regions, just before the Antarctic glaciers formed, were surprisingly higher than current climate models predicted, suggesting that these models underestimate high-latitude warming under high CO2 conditions," said lead author Zhonghui Liu, Pagani's postdoctoral associate who is now an assistant professor at the University of Hong Kong. Further, he said, the substantial cooling that occurred in both Northern and Southern high latitudes suggests that a decline in CO2 level, rather than a localized change of ocean circulation drove the climate transition.
The ice formed over Antarctica in about 100,000 years, which is an "overnight" shift in geological terms. "Just over thirty-five million years ago, 'poof,' there was an ice sheet where there had been subtropical temperatures before," said Co-author Matthew Huber of Purdue University.
Another theory refuted by this study is the notion that ice-expansion also occurred in the Northern Hemisphere during this time — a supposition poorly supported by physical evidence of glacier formation in that region, say the Yale scientists.
There are about 70 meters of vertical sea level rise represented in the ice sheets of Antarctica. And, there are many questions regarding the glacier's stability, the temperature thresholds that would cause radical glacier melting, and the rate at which it would change, according to Pagani. "Our findings point to the difficulty of modeling accurate temperatures under higher CO2 in this critical region."
Janet Rettig Emanuel | EurekAlert!
Further reports about: > Antarctic Predators > Antarctic glacier > Antarctica > CO2 > Global Climate > Southern Hemisphere ice expansion > global cooling > global temperature change > greenhouse-to-icehouse transition > high-latitude cooling > ice sheet > ice-free world > organic molecule > surface-water temperature > temperature proxies
How does the loss of species alter ecosystems?
18.05.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Excess diesel emissions bring global health & environmental impacts
16.05.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...
In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.
In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...
Dental plaque and the viscous brown slime in drainpipes are two familiar examples of bacterial biofilms. Removing such bacterial depositions from surfaces is...
For the first time, scientists have succeeded in studying the strength of hydrogen bonds in a single molecule using an atomic force microscope. Researchers from the University of Basel’s Swiss Nanoscience Institute network have reported the results in the journal Science Advances.
Hydrogen is the most common element in the universe and is an integral part of almost all organic compounds. Molecules and sections of macromolecules are...
22.05.2017 | Event News
17.05.2017 | Event News
16.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Materials Sciences
22.05.2017 | Life Sciences
22.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy