Thursday, March 24, 2016
We are dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere faster today than at any time since the dinosaurs.
And not just by a little. By a lot. Ten times more, according to a new paper by University of Hawai`i researcher Richard Zeebe and collaborators.
(Image: Deep ocean sediment cores provide clues about climate going back more than 60 million years. Credit: James Zachos.)
What that means is serious uncertainty about climate change. We don’t know how fast change will come, but we know there will be a lot of it, they said.
In a paper published in the journal Nature Geoscience, the team, which included Zeebe, and co-authors Andy Ridgwell of the University of Bristol and University of California, and James Zachos of the University of California, described studying deep ocean sediments to make determinations about ancient climate.
The last time the planet faced a massive pulse of carbon dioxide, it was during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, 56 million years ago. The climate got hot back then, despite the fact that that big pulse contained far less carbon dioxide than we’re releasing today.
“Carbon release rates from human sources reached a record high in 2014 of about 37 billion metric tons of CO2. The researchers estimated the maximum sustained carbon release rate during the PETM had to be less than 4 billion metric tons of CO2 per year – about one-tenth the current rate,” said a press release from the University of Hawai`i. http://manoa.hawaii.edu/news/article.php?aId=7771
“Because our carbon release rate is unprecedented over such a long time period in Earth’s history, it also means that we have effectively entered a 'no-analogue' state. This represents a big challenge for projecting future climate changes because we have no good comparison from the past,” said Zeebe.
The impacts of the dramatic increase in the release of greenhouse gas, since it’s unlike anything experienced in the history of our species, will be remarkably difficult to model
“If you kick a system very fast, it usually responds differently than if you nudge it slowly but steadily," said Zeebe.
He suggested that while our grandkids will experience significant changes in climate, it’s our great-great grandkids who may suffer far more from issues like acid oceans, risen sea levels and warming atmosphere..
“Everyone is focused on what happens by 2100. But that’s only two generations from today. It’s like: If the world ends in 2100 we’re probably OK. But it’s very clear that over a longer timescale there will be much bigger changes,” Zeebe said.
© Jan TenBruggencate 2016