Historical Tipping Points Offer Insight into Climate Change

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How do you learn what the climactic conditions of the past were like 10,000 years ago?

One way is to drill holes in sedimentary deposits and ice sheets around the world and analyse the chemistry of those deposits, comparing them to today’s atmospheric chemistry. That is exactly what researcher’s from Oregon State University did, who published a study in the journal Science. 

Among the findings reported in the study the team from Oregon state found that roughly 10,000 years ago, the climactic conditions in the Northern Pacific and Greenland suddenly aligned themselves, highly uncommon, which was followed by a historically unprecedented period of warming.

Scientific American  reported than an alignment between the North Pacific and Greenland could be something to watch out for, said Summer Praetorius, a graduate student at Oregon State University and lead author of the study. The alignment would not necessarily indicate that a new world order is on the horizon, but it might signal interesting changes.

“We are saying that could be an early warning of more rapid change,” she said. “But I don’t want to speculate too much on the future.”

Praetorius  explained that such alignments occurred as the planet cycled through cold and warm periods linked to changes in its orbit around the sun. Sometimes, the orbit shifted slightly and triggered a recession of the world’s glaciers. Thousands of years later, the orbital would shift again and trigger global cooling.

There have been several such transitions in the past, but one of the largest and most dramatic transitions happened at the end of the last Ice Age. The planet hit a tipping point, and over a period of just 10 to 100 years warmed rapidly. Greenland warmed by 10 degrees Celsius.

For more read the full article in Science.

 

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