New climate research, conducted primarily in San Diego, reveals that a study of Earth’s temperatures during the last ice age confirms some widely held ideas about climate change.

Lead author Alan Seltzer, a paleoclimatologist at the Wood’s Hole Institute of Oceanography, studied ancient water as a way to better understand never-before-recorded planetary temperatures.

New Research Finds Climate Models Usually Do It Right

Hear this story from Erik Anderson.

New Research Finds Climate Models Usually Do It Right

Working in the oceanography laboratory of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at Jeffery Severinghaus in La Jolla, Seltzer analyzed the composition of ancient groundwater in San Diego and other places around the world.

“A huge amount of our planet’s land surface, like about a third of our planet’s land surface, contains ancient water that has fallen as rain or entered the subsoil as runoff from the earth. rivers during the last ice age, ”said Seltzer.

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After chemically dating the water using radiocarbon techniques, the researchers measured the amount of rare gases dissolved in the water. They compiled data on all continents except Antarctica.

“Paleo noble gas temperature records are so powerful because they are based on a physical principle and are not influenced much by life – which always complicates everything – or by extreme short-term events,” said co-author Martin Stute, researcher in the Department of Environmental Sciences at Barnard College and Associate Principal Investigator at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

This technique allowed researchers to extrapolate the temperature of the planet during the last ice age.

He also confirmed the results that determine ocean temperatures during this period, giving scientists more confidence in models that predict climate change.

“This gives the models a little more confidence in a longer term climate perspective well beyond human observation,” said Seltzer.

Researchers can tell with more confidence what the temperature of the earth will be based on the amount of carbon in the air.

“The most important thing he tells us is that the models are actually on the right track and we can believe the models more than before so that we can believe them,” Severinghaus said.

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Previous work seriously underestimated the climate’s sensitivity to greenhouse gases, according to Severinghaus. Climate change could be more destabilizing than current forecasts predict, he said.

“The rather high climate sensitivity that our results suggest is not good news regarding future global warming, which could be stronger than expected using previous best estimates,” said co-author Werner Aeschbach, researcher at the Institute of Environmental Physics, University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany.

“In particular, our overall review strengthens the conclusion from several single rare gas case studies that the tropics were significantly colder during the last ice maximum than today. The unpleasant implication for the future is that the warmer regions of the world are not immune from further warming, ”he said.

The results are published in the current edition of the journal Nature.


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