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Nature's past experiment on global warming?

  1. Oct 17, 2007 #1
    An experiment of nature on the effect of intense global warming has already occurred in the Eocene 38-55 million yrs. ago; the so-called Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM).(1,4) There were no massive extinctions comparative to that of the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) period defining the Mezozoic/Cenazocic eras at 65Myrs. At the Paleocene-Eocene divide, paleo-stratigraphic results show that there was deep water benthic foraminifera mass extinction associated with the increased temperature and hence dysoxic (less oxygenated) waters.(1) But most marine and terrestrial extinctions occurred with cooling at the end of the Eocene, and into the Oligocene epoch.(1) The consequences of the present warming are unknown in regards to extinctions. However nature already has conducted one experiment in regards to intense global warming, with seemingly not overwhelming catastrophic results.

    An alternative question for the future and for our cognition/imagination might be as follows: From current habit destruction and hence species extinction, for say 100k years duration; would this be significant enough to leave a paleo-stratigraphic signature say 3 million years hence? The PETM might be considered herein as maximizing for over approximately 3 Myrs. So for shallow geological time, might the current extinction times we are inducing be more likely to leave a signature (if any?) due more to habit destruction (and ocean degrading environment?) than to any long term geological stratigraphic consequences from global warming?

    1. Hallam Tony, Catastrophes and Lesser Calamities Oxford Univ Press, 2004, and references therein.

    2. Raup David M., Extinction: Bad Genes or bad Luck?, W.W. Norton, 1991, and references therein.

    3. Stanley Steven M., Extinction, Scientific American Books, 1987, and references therein.

    4.Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. Wikipedia.

    some look at things and ask why,
    while others dream of things that never were,
    and ask why not.
    George Barnard Shaw
  2. jcsd
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