June 2, 2004
In an article in the science journal Nature, Norwegian researchers said
they had found traces of thousands of hydrothermal vents in lava off
Norway that could have been the source of a rise in greenhouse gases 55
million years ago. Until now, scientists have been at a loss to explain
the trigger for a 5-10 Celsius (10-20 F) global warming over about 10,000
years in the Eocene -- a blink in geological time.
The scientists said the annual rate of modern human emissions of
gases to the atmosphere in the 1990s -- from fossil fuels burnt in cars,
factories and power plants -- was 35 to 360 times as fast as the pace of
the Eocene gas buildup.
"We can cause the same amount of global warming ourselves in a few
hundred years at current rates," Svensen said. Scientists say that gases
linked to human activity could bring disaster with more storms, floods
and higher sea levels. The Eocene global warming theory outlined in
Nature bolsters the idea that a buildup of gases can disrupt the climate,
as forecast by U.N. models. A U.N. panel of scientists has predicted a
1.4 to 5.8 Celsius rise in temperatures by 2100.
By Alister Doyle (Reuters) --
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