Ever-increasing CO2 levels could take us back to the tropical climate of Paleogene period

July 30, 2018, University of Bristol
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A new study led by scientists at the University of Bristol has warned that unless we mitigate current levels of carbon dioxide emissions, Western Europe and New Zealand could revert to the hot tropical climate of the early Paleogene period—56-48 million years ago.

As seen from the ongoing , the knock-on effects of such extreme warmth include arid land and fires as well as impacts on health and infrastructure.

The early Paleogene is a period of great interest to change scientists as carbon dioxide levels (around 1,000 ppmv) are similar to those predicted for the end of this century.

Dr. David Naafs from the University of Bristol's School of Earth Sciences, led the research published today in the journal, Nature Geoscience. He said: "We know that the early Paleogene was characterised by a greenhouse climate with elevated carbon dioxide levels.

"Most of the existing estimates of temperatures from this period are from the ocean, not the land—what this study attempts to answer is exactly how warm it got on land during this period."

Scientists used molecular fossils of microorganisms in ancient peat (lignite) to provide estimates of land 50 million-years ago. This demonstrated that annual land temperatures in Western Europe as well as New Zealand were actually higher than previously thought—between 23 and 29 °C—this is currently 10 to 15 °C higher than current average temperatures in these areas.

These results suggest that temperatures similar to those of the current heat wave that is influencing western Europe and other regions would become the new norm by the end of this century if CO2 levels in the atmosphere continue to increase.

Professor Rich Pancost, Co-author and Director of the University of Bristol Cabot Institute, added: "Our work adds to the evidence for a very hot climate under potential end-of-century carbon dioxide levels. "Importantly, we also study how the Earth system responded to that warmth. For example, this and other hot time periods were associated with evidence for arid conditions and extreme rainfall events."

The research team will now turn their attentions to geographical areas in lower-latitudes to see how hot land temperatures were there.

Dr. Naafs said: "Did the tropics, for example, become ecological dead zones because temperatures in excess of 40 °C were too high for most form of life to survive?

"Some climate models suggest this, but we currently lack critical data.

"Our results hint at the possibility that the tropics, like the mid-latitudes, were hotter than present, but more work is needed to quantify temperatures from these regions."

Explore further: Greenhouse gases were the main driver of climate change in the deep past

More information: High temperatures in the terrestrial mid-latitudes during the early Palaeogene, Nature Geoscience (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41561-018-0199-0 , https://www.nature.com/articles/s41561-018-0199-0

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3.1 / 5 (7) Jul 30, 2018
Thanks to Deniers and folk like the nasty Koch Brothers, we will find out too soon.
1 / 5 (8) Aug 01, 2018
More pseudo-science non-sense.

"carbon dioxide levels (around 1,000 ppmv) are similar to those predicted for the end of this century"

There is no credible prediction that CO2 levels will be that high at the end of the century.
3.4 / 5 (5) Aug 01, 2018
Tyrant needs to read this:
Then, he can come back and tell us what it tells him.
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 06, 2018
We should not pick on the Koch brother too much. They are in the oil business, and need to have shills in government who protect their business.
5 / 5 (1) Aug 06, 2018
gkam - Nice thought, but do you really think Tyrant is going to look (let alone read) that?

Per your reference, ~1000ppm looks conservative at present rates.

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