Site icon Conservation news

Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels closely correlated with global temperatures




Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels closely correlated with global temperatures

Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels closely correlated with global temperatures
mongabay.com
November 28, 2005

MONGABAY RESEARCH SUMMARY:

Studying ice cores from Antarctica, scientists of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research extended the record of historic concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide in the atmosphere by 250,000 years.

The team found a close correlation between atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and global temperatures. Over the past 650,000 years, low greenhouse gas concentrations have been associated with cooler conditions.

The current concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide, at 380 parts-per-million, is the highest level recorded over the past 650,000 years. (See related article: Carbon dioxide level highest in 650,000 years)

Below is a news release from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research.




Close Coupling Of Climate With Green House Gases In The Past
Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research news release

November 24, 2005

Never before during the past 650,000 years, have concentrations of green house gases been as high as today. The warm climate periods between 650,000 and 420,000 years ago were characterised by even lower carbon dioxide and methane concentrations than subsequent warm periods. This is one of the conclusions drawn by a European team of researchers with contribution from scientists of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, after analysis of an ice core from Antarctica. The results extend previous data on historic concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide in the atmosphere by 250,000 years.


Graph of CO2, temperature, and dust concentration for past 400,000 years measured from the Vostok, Antarctica ice core as reported by Petit et al., 1999. Higher dust levels are believed to be caused by cold, dry periods. Image prepared by “Dragons flight” of Wikipedia.org.

In two studies published in the scientific journal Science, researchers from the University of Bern, together with their colleagues from France and Germany, demonstrate that, over the past 650,000 years, low green house gas concentrations have been associated also with cooler conditions. “The link between temperature and carbon dioxide, as well as methane concentrations in the past is surprisingly constant over time. Only through the impact of humans during the last centuries, atmospheric green house gases have been raised above their natural levels”, explains Dr Hubertus Fischer of the Alfred Wegener Institute. Prof Dr Thomas Stocker of the Physics Institute at the University of Bern in Switzerland adds: “The analysis highlights the fact that the current concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide, 0.38 volume parts per thousand, already exceeds the highest level recorded over the past 650,000 years by 27 percent.”

As part of the European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica (EPICA), the ice core was retrieved from the Antarctic plateau at Dome C. Ultimately, ice cores date back to individual snowfalls which, over time, have been transformed into glacial ice. Approximately ten percent of teh volume of an ice core consists of air bubbles trapped among the ice crystals. By analysing the trapped air, as well as the chemical composition and the physical properties of the ice, scientists are able to draw conclusions about atmospheric processes and climate changes in the past.

The drilling at Dome C was completed in the past winter. Hence, even older ice is available for further measurements. The glaciologists estimate that the ice cores not yet analysed contain undisturbed climatic history dating back approximately 900,000 years. The EPICA project is carried out by a consortium of ten European countries (Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland). EPICA is coordinated under the umbrella of the European Science Foundation (ESF) and funded by the participating countries and the European Union. EPICA’s goal is to obtain two ice cores, extending all the way to the underlying bedrock, from the Antarctic inland ice. Apart from drilling at Dome C (75° 06’S, 123° 21’E), a second core, currently at a depth of 2565 metres, is being taken at Kohnen Station in Dronning Maud Land (75°00’S, 00°04’E).

The Alfred Wegener Institute is the German EPICA partner and carries responsibility for the coring in Dronning Maud Land. Presently, the European researchers are, once again, in the Antarctic to complete drilling this season and reach the bedrock. The project EPICA represents one of the central projects within the research concept ‘Ocean, Coastal and Polar Systems’, part of the research field ‘Earth and Environment’ at the Helmholtz Association. Dr Hubertus Fischer directs a team of young researchers at the Alfred Wegener Institute. He coordinates working groups investigating the air trapped in ice cores.

The articles “Stable Carbon Cycle-Climate Relationship During the Late Pleistocene” and “Atmospheric Methane and Nitrous Oxide of the Late Pleistocene from Antarctic Ice Cores” will be published November 25 in Science (vol. 310, issue 5752).

This article is based on a modified news release from the Alfred Wegener Wegener Institute For Polar And Marine Research. The original appears at Close Coupling Of Climate With Green House Gases In The Past.

Related articles

Carbon dioxide level highest in 650,000 years
Carbon dioxide levels are now 27 percent higher than at any point in the last 650,000 years, according to research into Antarctic ice cores published on Thursday in Science. Analysis of carbon dioxide in the ancient Antarctic ice showed that at no point in the past 650,000 years did levels approach today’s carbon dioxide concentrations of around 380 parts per million (ppm). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projects that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels could reach 450-550 ppm by 2050, possibly resulting in higher temperatures and rising sea levels.

Average temperatures climbing faster than thought in North America
Tree rings and borehole drill samples have added to the evidence that average temperatures in North America have risen steadily in the past 150 years according to a new study by researchers at Oregon State University and the University of Utah. In their paper published in Journal of Geophysical Research, scientists found that average temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere increased about 1.5 degrees since the beginning of the industrial revolution when atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations began to increase sharply.

Ocean levels rising twice as fast
Global ocean levels are rising twice as fast today as they were 150 years ago according to research presented in Science by a team of researchers. The Using core samples of sediments along the New Jersey coast, the scientists found that rates of sea level change have climbed significantly over the past 200 years, coinciding with the beginning of the industrial revolutions when carbon dioxide emissions began to dramatically increase. Carbon dioxide is the principal greenhouse gas believed to contribute to global warming.

Singing iceberg discovered in Antarctica
Scientists believe they have found a singing iceberg in Antarctica, according to research published in Science on Friday. Researchers at the German Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research recorded seismic vibrations originating from an iceberg at the Antarctic Neumayer Station.