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4817USGS: Getting Warmer? Prehistoric Climate Can Help Forecast Future Changes

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  • Pat Neuman
    Nov 26, 2008
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      The first comprehensive reconstruction of an extreme warm period
      shows the sensitivity of the climate system to changes in carbon
      dioxide (CO2) levels as well as the strong influence of ocean
      temperatures, heat transport from equatorial regions, and greenhouse
      gases on Earth's temperature. ...

      Since CO2 levels during the mid-Pliocene were only slightly higher
      than today's levels, PRISM research suggests that a slight increase
      in our current CO2 level could have a large impact on temperature
      change. Research also shows warming of as much as 18°C, bringing
      temperatures from -2°C to 16°C, in the high latitudes of the North
      Atlantic and Arctic Oceans during the mid-Pliocene.

      Warming in the Pacific, similar to a present day El Niño, was a
      characteristic of the mid-Pliocene. Global sea surface and deep
      water temperatures were found to be warmer than those of today,
      impacting the ocean's circulation system and climate. Data suggest
      the likely cause of mid-Pliocene warmth was a combination of several
      factors, including increased heat transport from equatorial regions
      to the poles and increased greenhouse gases.