The Triassic–Jurassic boundary 200 million years ago marked the beginning of the dinosaurs’ dominance of the entire planet. Following the worst ever extinction event at the end of the Permian, 252 mya, dinosaurs started showing up in the fossil record around 245 mya but did not spread to all areas of the globe until the end of the Triassic. A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) posits one possible explanation for why the spread of dinosaurs was stymied. Sadly, this interesting but not conclusive report was immediately seized upon by climate alarmists as a cautionary tale about atmospheric CO2 levels. A news item in Science online labels modern levels “alarming” and implies that a fiery fate, like the one that held the dinosaurs at bay for so long ago, awaits us all.
Forty million years ago, Earth began slipping from a “hothouse” climate to an “icehouse” climate. Currently the planet is in a brief warm interlude know as an interglacial—a period of retreating ice sheets and shrinking glaciers. As the word interglacial suggests, our current comfortable climate is not permanent, but merely a pause between frigid ice age conditions. Though climate alarmists and media talking heads continue to natter on about uncontrollable rising temperatures a more devastating climate change would be a descent into an ice age so cold and so deep that the entire globe freezes over—it has happened before. A new scientific paper reveals what researchers say is a feedback mechanism that acts as a natural thermostat and keeps Earth from cooling to the point of uninhabitability.
Recent comet sightings and the fiery path blazed across Russian skies by a large meteor have people pondering the possibility of a collision between Earth and some other heavenly body. Lost in the discussion is news from NASA that Mars is on schedule for a close encounter of its own in 2014, and the visiting comet may actually strike the red planet. Comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) will be rendezvousing with Mars in October 2014, most likely passing by the planet at roughly the height of an earthly communication satellite. Estimates of the minimum distance between planet and comet range from about 100,000 km and 0, meaning a collision. If the comet does collide with Mars it is estimated the blast will be equivalent to that of a billion megatons of TNT. It would be an event of the same magnitude as the impact that killed off the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
Climate alarmists have been slow to learn that their over-reliance on computer models and unproven theories has harmed their public credibility. In an attempt to counter the richly deserved bad press that climate science has been garnering these days, a number of global warming true believers are trying a different, more fact based approach to scaring the public. One such attempt recently appeared in the journal Science—not as a paper describing original research but as a perspective article. In it, a Senior Scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, in Boulder, Colorado, attempts to “weave together” some carefully selected “threads in the discussion of climate” to arrive at a very familiar and unconvincing conclusion.
Scientists believe that carbon released from the ocean floor played a key role in past episodes of climate change. Around 55 million years ago, the break-up of the northeast Atlantic continents was associated with the injection of large amounts of molten magma into seafloor sediments. Formation of the North Atlantic basalts heated the carbon-rich sediments, triggering the release of large quantities of methane and carbon dioxide into the ocean and atmosphere. It has been suggested that this release of previously sequestered carbon was responsible for a 100,000 year period of rapid temperature rise known as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum or PETM. Three letters published in Nature Geoscience suggest that carbon trapped beneath the seabed continues to influence carbon dynamics, at least in the deep ocean.
Time after time, the public has been harangued by climate change “experts” predicting all form of devastation due to anthropogenic global warming. The Greenland and Antarctic glaciers will melt, as will the sea ice covering the Arctic Ocean. Temperatures will rise by 2-6°C, perhaps more in higher latitudes. Weather patterns will shift, there will be droughts and torrential monsoon rains, cyclones will increase in intensity—where will it all end? Here's a thought, we might find the world a nicer place after a bit of global warming. In fact, given the general cooling trend seen over the Holocene (the period since the last glacial period ended around 14,000 years ago) and the Cenozoic (the time since the dinosaurs died, around 65 million years ago) human CO2 may be, in some small way, the only thing delaying another devastating ice age.
Tyrannosaurs, the group of carnivorous dinosaurs that includes Tyrannosaurus rex and its closest relatives, are the most iconic and most studied of the dinosaurs. Made famous by movies, television shows and books, T. rex is the image most people think of when they hear the word dinosaur. The popular image of a tyrannosaur is that of a gigantic meat eater, like the one shown in Spielberg's Jurassic Park, but this was not always the case. T. rex was initially described 105 years ago by H. F. Osborn of the American Museum of Natural History. New fossil finds, including six new species during the past year alone, have shown tyrannosaurs to be a more diverse group that was first thought. A phylogeny that includes recently described species shows that tyrannosaurs originated by the Middle Jurassic but remained mostly small and ecologically marginal until the Late Cretaceous.
Even with all of the recent scandal surrounding the purveyors of climate change pap, many in the “news media” continue to crank out party-line articles blaming all of Earth's ecological woes on humanity. After decades of trying to alarm the public over a human caused “sixth mass extinction” and more recently, dwindling diversity, some in the media just can't let go of AGW as the root of all evil. A perfect example of this appeared recently in the font of misinformation that is Yahoo News. Blaming every human activity from hunting to climate change, science writer Jeremy Hsu has once again raised the specter of that old shibboleth, the Anthropocene Epoch. This is all a part of a developing trend to elevate falling species diversity to crisis level, mainly because the world's eco-activists need a replacement issue for climate change.
Recently this site posted an article about the extinction event 65.5 million years ago at the end of the Cretaceous period. That extinction coincided with a large asteroid impact at Chicxulub, Mexico, and occurred within the time of Deccan flood basalt volcanism in India. A new review article by 41 scientists, published in the March 5, 2010, edition of Science, was cited that summarized what science thinks it knows about the extinction. That article reinforced the single cause asteroid impact extinction scenario. Now, in an excellent example of how the scientific process works, and why scientific consensus is such a bogus term, the May 21 issue of Science has published a number of letters that take exception to the previous article's conclusions.
Once again, scientists propose that planet Earth has been so altered by human activity that we are entering a new geological time period—the Anthropocene. A viewpoint article by some stratigraphic heavy hitters, just published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, has proclaimed a new age caused by anthropogenic global warming and man's savaging of the environment. According to these experts, the effects of human activity have become so pervasive that Earth has been transformed and the 11,000 year old Holocene epoch is now a “lost world.” Is this really the start of a brave new epoch, one of our own making?
Earth's climate history includes numerous incidents of rapid warming and cooling. While Pleistocene ice-age glacial terminations are arguably the most dramatic recent examples of sudden climate change, during the last glacial period the climate of the Northern Hemisphere experienced several other significant episodes when the climate rapidly warmed. Scientists call these episodes Dansgaard-Oeschger (DO) events after the Danish and Swiss researchers who documented them using ice-core studies. These rapid oscillations are marked by rapid warming, followed by slower cooling. The most prominent coolings are associated with massive iceberg discharge into the North Atlantic Ocean known as Heinrich events (HE). The melting icebergs add large volumes of cold fresh water to the ocean, disrupting circulation patterns and causing further climate changes. Scientists look to past events like these to help us understand how Earth's climate system functions—what causes our planet to cool or suddenly warm. Recently, new data on past climate changes have led one commentator to predict the end of winter skiing in the American Southwest.
There have been a number of strange theories regarding the conditions deep within Earth's interior circulating around the internet. Claims that solar flares will cause nuclear reactions deep below our feet are perhaps the most ludicrous, but fairly easy to dismiss. More timely, perhaps, is the sudden conversion of global warming guru Al Gore into a geothermal energy booster. Evidently Gore thinks it's bad to drill for oil, but good to drill for heat. TV documentaries threaten mega-volcano eruptions and talk about mantle plumes underneath Hawaii, but just what does science tell us about our planet's interior?
The Appalachian mountains are seldom mentioned among the world's great mountain ranges. Consisting mostly of low gentle ridges, when compared with the snow-capped peaks of the Himalaya, Andes, or Alps many would hesitate to call them mountains at all. But they are a large and ancient range, stretching over 1500 miles along the eastern portion of North America. The time of their formation has been dated back to the Paleozoic, with major uprisings occurring 650 million years ago. Then, about 460 million years ago, during the Ordovician period, they were the site of one of the most violent volcanic outbursts in Earth's history. New research reveals that, following that bout of vulcanism, weathering of Appalachian rock may have triggered one of Earth's major ice ages—a relatively brief frigid period that ultimately killed two-thirds of all species on the planet.
One of the things that has been obscured by all the hand wringing and arm waiving about global warming is the existence of a threat to our planet that is very real and could arise suddenly. That threat is from non-planetary bodies within the solar system: asteroids, comets and other celestial wanderers. While the world's politicians and tree-hugging blowhards rail about the damage climate change might cause, a symposium was held in San Francisco to address a problem that actually could end life on Earth.
Two of the terms bandied about by global warming alarmists are “unprecedented” and “irreversible.” It is troubling that scientists, who should know better, persist in using these terms even though the history of our planet clearly shows that neither term is accurate. Proof of this inaccuracy is obvious if we look back over the history of Earth—the Phanerozoic Eon in particular—taking the “Grand View” of historical climate change.