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This Crater in Siberia Reveals the Future of a Globally Warmed Planet


Science & Tech  (tags: climate, climate-change, climatechange, CO2emissions, destruction, environment, globalwarming, globalwarming, greenhousegases, habitatdestruction, nature, habitat, research, science, weather, wildlife, world, Sustainabililty, trees, water, oceans, scienti )

JL
- 472 days ago - motherjones.com
Scientists can tell what the climate was like last time CO2 levels were as high as they are now.



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JL A. (275)
Thursday May 16, 2013, 11:10 am


Mother Jones
This Crater in Siberia Reveals the Future of a Globally Warmed Planet
Scientists can tell what the climate was like last time CO2 levels were as high as they are now.

By Damian Carrington | Thu May. 9, 2013 12:04 PM PDT

This story [1] originally appeared in The Guardian [2].

The future of a globally warmed world has been revealed in a remote meteorite crater in Siberia, where lake sediments recorded the strikingly balmy climate of the Arctic [3] during the last period when greenhouse gas levels were as high as today.

Unchecked burning of fossil fuels [4] has driven carbon dioxide to levels not seen for 3 million years when, the sediments show, temperatures were 14.4 degrees Fahrenheit higher than today*, lush forests covered the tundra and sea levels were up to 40 meters higher than today.

"It's like deja vu," said Prof Julie Brigham-Grette, at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, who led the new research analyzing a core of sediment to see what temperatures in the region were between 3.6 and 2.2 million years ago. "We have seen these warm periods before. Many people now agree this is where we are heading."

"It shows a huge warming—unprecedented in human history," said Prof Scott Elias, at Royal Holloway University of London, and not involved in the work. "It is a frightening experiment we are conducting with our climate."

The sediments have been slowly settling in Lake El'gygytgyn since it was formed 3.6 million years ago, when a kilometer-wide meteorite blasted a crater 100 kilometers north of the Arctic circle. Unlike most places so far north, the region was never eroded by glaciers so a continuous record of the climate has lain undisturbed ever since. "It's a phenomenal record," said Prof Peter Sammonds, at University College London. "It is also an incredible achievement [the study's work], given the remoteness of the lake." Sixteen shipping containers of equipment had to be hauled 90 kilometers over snow by bulldozers from the nearest ice road, used by gold miners.

Previous research on land had revealed glimpses of the Arctic climate and ocean sediments had recorded the marine climate, but the disparate data are not consistent with one another. "Lake El'gygytgyn may be the only place in the world that has this incredible unbroken record of sediments going back millions of years," said Elias. "When you have a very long record it is very different to argue with."

The new research, published in the journal Science [5], also sheds light on a crucial question for climate scientists: how sensitive is the Earth's climate to increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere? The relative slowing of global temperature rises over the past 15 years has led some researchers to suggest the climate is less sensitive to CO2 rises [6] than current climate models suggest. But the record from Lake El'gygytgyn of a very warm Arctic when atmospheric CO2 levels were last at about 400 parts per million (ppm) indicates the opposite, according to Brigham-Grette. "My feeling is we have underestimated the sensitivity, unless there are some feedbacks we don't yet understand or we don't get right in the models."

Prof Robert Spicer, at the Open University and not part of the new study, agreed: "This is another piece of evidence showing that climate models have a systematic problem with polar amplification," ie the fact that global warming has its greatest effects at the poles. "This has enormous implications and suggests model are likely to underestimate the degree of future change."

Brigham-Grette said it would take time for today's CO2 levels to translate into the warming seen in the lake records: "The Earth's climate system is a sluggish beast." Most scientists predict it will take centuries to melt the great ice caps of Greenland and Antarctica to the shrunken levels seen 3 million years ago, and so push up sea level far above the world's coastal cities. But CO2 is increasing with unprecedented speed and the Arctic plays a key role in the global climate.

"I think we will feel the effects of climate change [7] quickly – in years or decades – because changes in the Arctic sea ice bring changes in the circulation of the atmosphere and the oceans," says Elias. " Arctic sea ice keeps that entire region cool and when it melts, the dark ocean revealed absorbs even more heat."

Recent wet and cold summer weather in Europe, for example, has been linked to changes in the high level jet stream winds [8], which in turn have been linked to melting Arctic ice, which shrank to its lowest recorded level in September [9]. Climate change has also already increased the likelihood of extreme heatwaves [10] and flooding [11] .

"Clearly the Arctic is warming very, very rapidly at the moment," said Sammonds. "And if all the sea ice goes, there is no good reason why it might come back again."

*Correction: The original version of this article on the Mother Jones site incorrectly converted how many degrees higher temperatures were 3 million years ago.
Source URL: http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/05/meteorite-crater-siberia-climate-change

Links:
[1] http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/may/09/meteorite-crater-global-warming?CMP=twt_fd
[2] http://www.guardian.co.uk
[3] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/arctic
[4] http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/apr/25/governments-catastrophic-climate-change-iea
[5] http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1233137
[6] http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21574461-climate-may-be-heating-up-less-response-greenhouse-gas-emissions
[7] http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/climate-change
[8] http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/jan/04/2012-year-british-weather-dangerous
[9] http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/sep/14/arctic-sea-ice-smallest-extent
[10] http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/feb/21/climate-change-russian-heatwave
[11] http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/feb/16/climate-change-risk-uk-floods
 

Tamara Noforwardsplz (185)
Thursday May 16, 2013, 11:21 am
No matter how you paint it, the picture is not good. The truth of the matter is we are destroying our environment and obviously those in power are not concerned in the least. Thanks JL.
 

Carol D. (109)
Thursday May 16, 2013, 12:00 pm
trouble is those in power know they probably wont be around so they dont care


Noted thanks
 

JL A. (275)
Thursday May 16, 2013, 12:23 pm
You are welcome Tamara and Carol.
You cannot currently send a star to Tamara because you have done so within the last day.
You cannot currently send a star to Carol because you have done so within the last day.
 

Terry V. (30)
Thursday May 16, 2013, 1:17 pm

Could Just One Degree Change the World


4 Degrees Warmer
 

JL A. (275)
Thursday May 16, 2013, 1:21 pm
Thanks for posting the links to the two marvelous short videos Terry!
 

Sandra Patterson (60)
Thursday May 16, 2013, 1:50 pm
Man keeps destroying our earth when it should be respected,sadly
 

Sandra Patterson (60)
Thursday May 16, 2013, 1:51 pm
sadly noted
 

Chelsie H. (19)
Thursday May 16, 2013, 2:36 pm
Noted; thanks.
 

JL A. (275)
Thursday May 16, 2013, 2:49 pm
You are welcome Chelsie.
 

Freya H. (305)
Thursday May 16, 2013, 5:47 pm
We are a tough bunch of buggers, and (perhaps unfortunately) we will survive climate change.
 

Christina G. (11)
Thursday May 16, 2013, 7:22 pm
anyone know of land up there, cheap?
 

Stephen Brian (23)
Thursday May 16, 2013, 9:41 pm
I spotted this almost a week ago on what I call the "anti-Care2" and am reposting here part of what I posted there (with a few clarifications of stuff that was covered prior to my post in the other forum):

It says that the temperature was higher during a time when CO2 was not much higher than today. The researchers say that this suggests higher climate-sensitivity to CO2 than previous models had.

My first issue with this is that previous models had climate-sensitivities to CO2 way beyond the data. Outside of the Arctic, they regularly and significantly overestimated warming. This crater may suggest higher sensitivity to CO2 than the data had, but not the models. I say "may" because that assumes that relevant features were equal three million years ago, and I don't believe that all were. For example, a lot of modern deserts had not yet grown, and I believe that to be the primary driving force of climate-change at lower latitudes (with coal-soot and other such particulates driving change in the arctic, and no significant observed change in the antarctic). Changes in local climates, occurring on a global scale, are not things to be ignored. Neither are many other changes in the last 3 million years.

My second issue with it is that the paleo-data has too low time-reolution to have spotted spikes in CO2. Had it gone up and then back down, it would have been missed as there is smoothing in the analyses, and even in some cases in the data. (I don't know how much effect this had, but the ice-cores, for example, had CO2 leaking from one year's record to those around it. Other data-sources are much lower-resolution, and data from the Arctic may not be representative of the entire world's changes.)

Essentially, if we assume that CO2 is the only driver of temperature-change, we can conclude that a change in CO2 will change the temperature. If we assume that the data is perfect, then we can see that modern levels of CO2 are disastrous. I seriously doubt both of these assumptions.
 

Dave C. (214)
Friday May 17, 2013, 8:25 am
noted, thanks.
 

Theodore Shayne (56)
Friday May 17, 2013, 9:03 am
Noted
 

John De Avalon (35)
Friday May 17, 2013, 10:10 am
Great article...

The alarm bells are sounding...We would do well to listen.
 

JL A. (275)
Friday May 17, 2013, 11:38 am
You are welcome Dave. CO2 is not the only gas/pollutant identified as speeding climate change by the experts in this area of science who also know how to use appropriate statistics and methods for dealing with things like imperfect paleo-data.
 

Past Member (0)
Saturday May 18, 2013, 12:24 am
thank you
 

Kerrie G. (135)
Saturday May 18, 2013, 4:50 am
Noted, thanks.
 

Patricia H. (468)
Saturday May 18, 2013, 5:06 am
noted
 

John S. (301)
Saturday May 18, 2013, 6:22 am
JL A, for those of us involved in forecasting, we call that guessing. For the audience we call it modelling.
 

JL A. (275)
Saturday May 18, 2013, 7:41 am
You are welcome Emrys and Kerrie.
Or a guesstimate John?
Statistical models fitting available data provide the most probable future that can be predicted. Those who do not know/understand how to choose statistical method based on fitting the data often try to critique the methods without understanding them.
 

Marlene Dinkins (232)
Saturday May 18, 2013, 12:22 pm
notato JL !!!! thnx!!!!!
 

JL A. (275)
Saturday May 18, 2013, 12:29 pm
You are welcome Marlene!
 

Past Member (0)
Sunday May 19, 2013, 1:03 am
Thanks for sharing.
 

JL A. (275)
Sunday May 19, 2013, 7:35 am
You are welcome Marianne.
 

Gene Jacobson (251)
Monday May 20, 2013, 2:21 pm
""It shows a huge warming—unprecedented in human history," said Prof Scott Elias, at Royal Holloway University of London, and not involved in the work. "It is a frightening experiment we are conducting with our climate."

Experiment? Well, I suppose that is one way of putting it. Or perhaps 40 meters more at sea level really isn't concerning as Mr. Brian seems to believe. Another way of looking at, one I find much more realistic, is that we human beings are bringing about as quickly as we can the largest mass extinction event in planetary history. A new snowball earth no oxygen breathing creature will survive. Is it really an experiment if one of the outcomes is death or is it russian roulette with fewer bullets?
 

JL A. (275)
Monday May 20, 2013, 3:07 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Gene because you have done so within the last day
 
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