It’s not a scene from the Hollywood disaster film, The Day After Tomorrow, but the Earth as it appeared during the mid-to late-Cretaceous geological period, 145 million to 65 million years ago, when the largest dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus Rex ruled the planet.
Our planet during the late Cretaceous period was very different than it is today. Not only were dinosaurs like T-Rex present, but the climate was extremely warm and global sea levels were significantly higher than they are today. This was a time when there were no glaciers in either the Arctic or Antarctic.
Late Cretaceous atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were two to four times higher than today, which resulted in a greenhouse climate with tropical sea-surface temperatures rising to more than 34 degrees Celsius, 3 to 7 degrees Celsius warmer than today.
Calderia and Rampino concluded in their 1991 paper - The mid-Cretaceous super plume, carbon dioxide, and global warming - that carbon dioxide emissions resulting from super‐plume tectonics could have produced atmospheric carbon dioxide levels from 3.7 to 14.7 times the modern pre‐industrial value of 285 ppm. Carbon dioxide levels today are around 390 ppm. According to Calderia and Rampino, temperature sensitivity to carbon dioxide increases used in the weathering‐rate formulations, would have caused global warming of from 2.8 to 7.7°C over today's global mean temperature.
Further supporting Calderia and Rampino’s 1991 paper is John Tarduno and his collaborators 1998 paper - Evidence for Extreme Climatic Warmth from Late Cretaceous Arctic Vertebrates.
In 1996, Tarduno’s expedition team literally stumbled across a unique fossil find: vertebrate remains from fish, turtles and Champsosaurs.
The fossils indicate that at least once in Earth's history, high amounts of the greenhouse gas warmed Earth to much higher temperatures than usual.
The reptiles, which were tied to their freshwater environment on Axel Heiberg Island, needed an extended warm period each summer to survive and reproduce. Based on the numbers and sizes of the animals found, the Tarduno’s team estimated that the annual mean temperature in the Arctic during the late Cretaceous period, from about 92 million to 86 million years ago, was about 14 degrees Celsius. That means it was rarely if ever freezing during the winter, and summer temperatures consistently reached between 27 and 32°C.
The Arctic today is defined as being the area where the average temperature for the warmest month (July) is minus 10°C.
The fossils of the Champsosaur are a record of what was happening in the Arctic just as extreme volcanism on Earth was winding down.
Most of the volcanic activity didn't resemble spectacular eruptions like Mt. Pinatubo. Instead, the eruptions were "basaltic" – billions of tons of lava oozed out, and carbon dioxide floated skyward. Besides huge amounts of lava in the Arctic, where hardened lava rock today measures more than a kilometre thick in some places, magma oozed from volcanoes in the Caribbean, in the Pacific Ocean northeast of Australia, in the Indian Ocean, off the coasts of Madagascar and Brazil, in South Africa and in the Southwestern United States.
Understanding how our past atmosphere, land and ocean system interacted while in this global greenhouse mode is very relevant if we want to understand the fate of our future climate.
It also further illustrates that we live on a dynamic planet who's climate is always changing over the millennia.
Whilst no one denies that the world’s industrialisation has increased considerably the output of greenhouse gases, to ascribe the current phase of our ever changing climate to one single variable (carbon dioxide) or, more specifically, to a very small proportion of one variable (i.e. human produced carbon dioxide) is not science, for it requires us to abandon all we know about our planet Earth, the Sun, our Galaxy and the Cosmos.
And believing that putting a price on Carbon Dioxide will make any difference to the Earth’s climate is madness. The only sensible action to tackle climate change is by adaption, as trying to prevent it is a fool’s game.
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