Global warming skeptics have frequently pointed out that not too long ago scientists were warning about the dangers of global cooling. The planet has gone through intense cooling and warming periods in the past, but which is worse?
A team of international researchers found that global cooling could be just as damaging to marine life as global warming.
“We conclude that global cooling during greenhouse conditions can cause perturbations to marine ecosystems and biogeochemical cycles at scales comparable to those associated with global warming,” according to European researchers, who analyzed the geochemistry and fossilized records or marine fossils in the northern Atlantic Ocean.
According to the researchers, a period of global cooling that occurred 116 million years ago was associated with losses of marine life. The earth’s temperature dropped as the supercontinent Pangea began to drift apart and create huge ocean basins, which allowed more marine algae to grow.
“The dead algae were buried in the sediments and locked up a certain amount of carbon with them that reduced the atmospheric Carbon Dioxide,” reports Nature World News. “Low levels of the gas in the atmosphere led to a major shift in the carbon cycle with global temperatures dropping to 5 degrees Celcius, about 2.5 million years ago.”
The planet began warming again, however, after volcanic activity in the Indian Ocean threw up large amounts of carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere about 2 million years ago, according to the scientists.
“As always it’s a question of fine balance and scale,” said Thomas Wagner, professor of Earth Systems Science at Newcastle University, who co-authored the study.
“All earth system processes are operating all the time and at different temporal and spatial scales; but when something upsets the balance — be it a large scale but long term natural phenomenon or a short and massive change to global greenhouse gases due to anthropogenic activity — there are multiple, potential knock-on effects on the whole system,” Wagner said in a statement.
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