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Past gives clue to climate impact
Date: Friday, January 06 2006

Past gives clue to climate impact
A rapid rise in global temperature 55 million years ago caused major disruption to ocean currents, new research shows.

Scientists found that the disruption took 140,000 years to reverse.

Writing in the journal Nature, the scientists say the phenomenon may be important for understanding the impact of present day climate warming.

Recent research suggests north Atlantic currents which bring heat to northern Europe may be weakening.

The new study, by Flavia Nunes and Richard Norris from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, looked at tiny fossil animals called foraminifera in marine sediments from 14 ocean-floor locations around the world.

Analysing the ratios of two isotopes of carbon in the shells of these foraminifera allowed them to determine ocean current patterns at the time the creatures died.

The time in question was an extraordinary epoch in Earth history - the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), when the global average temperature rose by anything between four and seven Celsius in a few thousand years.

Published: 2006/01/05 09:04:33 GMT


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