“(Phys.org) —”Rapid” and “instantaneous” are words geologists don’t use very often. But Rutgers geologists use these exact terms to describe a climate shift that occurred 55 million years ago.
Scientists previously thought this process happened over 10,000 years.
Wright, a professor of earth and planetary sciences in the School of Arts and Sciences and Schaller, a research associate, say the finding is significant in considering modern-day climate change.
“We’ve shown unequivocally what happens when CO2 increases dramatically – as it is now, and as it did 55 million years ago,” Wright said. “The oceans become acidic and the world warms up dramatically. Our current carbon release has been going on for about 150 years, and because the rate is relatively slow, about half the CO2 has been absorbed by the oceans and forests, causing some popular confusion about the warming effects of CO2. But 55 million years ago, a much larger amount of carbon was all released nearly instantaneously, so the effects are much clearer.”
The window to this important decade in the very distant past opened when Wright helped a colleague, Kenneth Miller, and his graduate students split core samples they extracted from a part of southern New Jersey once covered by the ocean.
The patterns found in the long cylinder of sediment told a story. There were distinct clay bands about 2 centimeters thick occurring rhythmically throughout the cores….”
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