By 2030, Earth's Climate Could Look Like It Did 3 Million Years Ago

Posted: Dec 16 2018, 5:07am CST | by , in Latest Science News


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By 2030, Earth's Climate Could Look Like it Did 3 Million Years Ago
Credit: NASA

New study shows that humans are reversing the climate clock by at least 50 million years.

Researchers are able to travel far back in time to model how Earth could respond to climate change in the future. They found that humans are reversing a long-term cooling trend and pushing the Earth into a warmer state. They suggest that Earth's climate is expected to resemble mid-Pliocene’s by 2030. If greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced, Earth by 2150 is going to look like it did in Eocene Epoch, about 50 million years ago.

"If we think about the future in terms of the past, where we are going is uncharted territory for human society," said lead author, Kevin Burke. "We are moving toward very dramatic changes over an extremely rapid time frame, reversing a planetary cooling trend in a matter of centuries."

Researchers used their extensive data about climate conditions to reconstruct the geological past and to make better predictions about future climate conditions. In the Pliocene, continents were joined tectonically and global temperatures were between 3.2 and 6.5 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than they are today.

During the Eocene, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was relatively higher than the preindustrial levels and average global temperature was 23.4 degrees Fahrenheit – about 13 degrees Celsius - warmer than today. Earth gradually cooled over the next few million years. These characteristics make the Eocene a good period to understand how the Earth responds to higher levels of carbon dioxide.

The models showed that Earth's climate most closely resembled the mid-Pliocene by 2030 or 2040, but under the higher greenhouse gas emissions climate continues to warm until it achieved Eocene-like conditions in 2100 and further matched Eocene by 2150.

"We can use the past as a yardstick to understand the future, which is so different from anything we have experienced in our lifetimes," said paleoecologist John "Jack" Williams, a professor of geography at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "People have a hard time projecting what the world will be like five or 10 years from now. This is a tool for predicting that—how we head down those paths, and using deep geologic analogs from Earth's history to think about changes in time."

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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