Global temperatures warmest in 4,000 years

Anne Hobson | Contributor

Scientists announced Thursday that current global temperatures are warmer than any time in the last 4,000 years. New research also suggests that temperatures will likely surpass levels unseen since before the first ice age, the New York Times reports.

At the National Ice Core Laboratory in Colorado examine cores to gain an understanding of past air temperatures. Previous research dating back roughly 1,500 years indicates that a rapid temperature spike in the last century is larger than any past warming episode.

Newer work corroborates these findings, suggesting modern warming will be higher than it was in the warmest periods of this geological era, known as the Holocene.

Sunshine began to cause ice sheets to melt in the Northern Hemisphere beginning 12,000 years ago. Scientists attribute this phenomena to wobbling in the earth’s orbit.

The journal Science is scheduled to publish new research reconstructing global temperatures over the past 11,300 years. Using information about the distribution of microscopic, temperature-sensitive ocean creatures in ice cores, the scientists were able to more accurately map out the planet’s climate history.

This rise has been attributed to human activity. Scientists at Oregon State University and Harvard University say that if nature was allowed to take its course, the Northern Hemisphere would most likely freeze over again in several thousand years. “We were on this downward slope, presumably going back toward another ice age,” Shaun Marcott, an earth scientist at Oregon State University, explained.

Scientists fear that an increase in greenhouse gases, in part due to industrialization, will impede this natural process. This new paper contains graphs that reveal a sharp vertical spike, further supporting the claim that the modern rise in temperatures is happening at an exceedingly rapid pace.

Michael E. Mann, a researcher at Pennsylvania State University, said that a modern spike in temperatures will threaten the survival of some species. “It’s the unprecedented speed with which we’re changing the climate that is so worrisome,” he said.

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