Archives par mot-clé : Pleistocene

Ancient Air Challenges Prominent Explanation For A Shift In Glacial Cycles

by E. W. Wolf, November 4, 2019 in WUWT


From Nature

An analysis of air up to 2 million years old, trapped in Antarctic ice, shows that a major shift in the periodicity of glacial cycles was probably not caused by a long-term decline in atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide.

Eric W. Wolff

During the past 2.6 million years, Earth’s climate has alternated between warm periods known as interglacials, when conditions were similar to those of today, and cold glacials, when ice sheets spread across North America and northern Europe. Before about 1 million years ago, the warm periods recurred every 40,000 years, but after that, the return period lengthened to an average of about 100,000 years. It has often been suggested that a decline in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide was responsible for this fundamental change. Writing in Nature, Yan et al.1 report the first direct measurements of atmospheric CO2 concentrations from more than 1 million years ago. Their data show that, although CO2levels during glacials stayed well above the lows that occurred during the deep glacials of the past 800,000 years, the maximum CO2 concentrations during interglacials did not decline. The explanation for the change must therefore lie elsewhere.

Understanding what caused the shift in periodicity, known as the mid-Pleistocene transition (MPT), is one of the great challenges of palaeoclimate science. The 40,000-year periodicity that dominated until about 1 million years ago is easily explained, because the tilt of Earth’s spin axis relative to its orbit around the Sun varies between 22.1° and 24.5° with the same period. In other words, before the MPT, low tilts led to cooler summers that promoted the growth and preservation of ice sheets.

But after the MPT, glacial cycles lasted for two to three tilt cycles. Because the pattern of variation in Earth’s orbit and tilt remained unchanged, this implies that the energy needed to lose ice sheets2 had increased. One prominent explanation3 is that atmospheric levels of CO2 were declining, and eventually crossed a threshold value below which the net cooling effect of the decline allowed ice sheets to persist and grow larger.

The epic search for oldest ice in Antarctica is starting

by Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia, June 5, 2019 in WUWT


Click here for project video.

On 1st June 2019 the European Beyond EPICA Oldest Ice Core project started with the aim of drilling for and recovering ice from up to 1.5 Million years ago in Antarctica. The previous EPICA project recovered ice from 800,000 years ago. The new project aims to go beyond that. The new core will give us information on the greenhouse gases present during the Middle Pleistocene Transition (MPT), which occurred between 900,000 and 1.2 Million years ago. During this period the climatic periodicity transitioned from 41,000 to 100,000 years between ice ages. Why this change happened is the mystery scientists want to resolve.

To do this, experts from 10 European Countries and 16 different Research Institutions have joined forces under the guidance of Carlo Barbante and his management team at the CNR and Ca’ Foscari University of Venice in Italy, funded by the European Horizon 2020-research programme.

For further information visit https://www.beyondepica.eu/

Major cosmic impact 12,800 years ago

by James Kennett et al., March 13, 2019 in CO2Coalition


When UC Santa Barbara geology professor emeritus James Kennett and colleagues set out years ago to examine signs of a major cosmic impact that occurred toward the end of the Pleistocene epoch, little did they know just how far-reaching the projected climatic effect would be.

“It’s much more extreme than I ever thought when I started this work,” Kennett noted. “The more work that has been done, the more extreme it seems.”

He’s talking about the Younger Dryas Impact Hypothesis, which postulates that a fragmented comet slammed into the Earth close to 12,800 years ago, causing rapid climatic changes, megafaunal extinctions, sudden human population decrease and cultural shifts and widespread wildfires (biomass burning). The hypothesis suggests a possible triggering mechanism for the abrupt changes in climate at that time, in particular a rapid cooling in the Northern Hemisphere, called the Younger Dryas, amid a general global trend of natural warming and ice sheet melting evidenced by changes in the fossil and sediment record.

Human ancestors not to blame for ancient mammal extinctions in Africa

by University of Utah, November23, 2018 in ScienceDaily


New research disputes a long-held view that our earliest tool-bearing ancestors contributed to the demise of large mammals in Africa over the last several million years. Instead, the researchers argue that long-term environmental change drove the extinctions, mainly in the form of grassland expansion likely caused by falling atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels.

The study is published today in the journal Science.

“Despite decades of literature asserting that early hominins impacted ancient African faunas, there have been few attempts to actually test this scenario or to explore alternatives,” Faith says. “We think our study is a major step towards understanding the depth of anthropogenic impacts on large mammal communities, and provides a convincing counter-argument to these long-held views about our early ancestors.”

To test for ancient hominin impacts, the researchers compiled a seven-million-year record of herbivore extinctions in eastern Africa, focusing on the very largest species, the so-called ‘megaherbivores’ (species over 2,000 lbs.) Though only five megaherbivores exist in Africa today, there was a much greater diversity in the past. For example, three-million-year-old ‘Lucy’ (Australopithecus afarensis) shared her woodland landscape with three giraffes, two rhinos, a hippo, and four elephant-like species at Hadar, Ethiopia.

See also here

Paleoclimatological Context and Reference Level of the 2°C and 1.5°C Paris Agreement Long-Term Temperature Limits

by S. Lüning & F. Vahrenholt, December12, 2017 in FrontEarthSci


The Paris Agreement adopted in December 2015 during the COP21 conference stipulates that the increase in the global average temperature is to be kept well below 2°C above “pre-industrial levels” and that efforts are pursued to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above “pre-industrial levels.” In order to further increase public acceptance of these limits it is important to transparently place the target levels and their baselines in a paleoclimatic context of the past 150,000 years (Last Interglacial, LIG) and in particular of the last 10,000 years (Holocene; Present Interglacial, PIG). Intense paleoclimatological research of the past decade has firmed up that pre-industrial temperatures have been highly variable which needs to be reflected in the pre-industrial climate baseline definitions …

See also here

Study: climate was more variable during the last inter-glacial period

by Anthony Watts, October 12, 2018 in WUWT


Century-scale climate variability was enhanced when the Earth was warmer during the Last Interglacial period (129-116 thousand years ago) compared to the current interglacial (the last 11,700 years), according to a new UCL-led study.

The findings, published today in Nature Communications and funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Australian Research Council (ARC), reveal that the Last Interglacial period was punctuated by a series of century-scale arid events in southern Europe and cold water-mass expansions in the North Atlantic.

Terminal Pleistocene epoch human footprints from the Pacific coast of Canada

by D.C. McLaren et al., 2018 in PLOS.ONE


Little is known about the ice age human occupation of the Pacific Coast of Canada. Here we present the results of a targeted investigation of a late Pleistocene shoreline on Calvert Island, British Columbia. Drawing upon existing geomorphic information that sea level in the area was 2–3 m lower than present between 14,000 and 11,000 years ago, we began a systematic search for archaeological remains dating to this time period beneath intertidal beach sediments (…)