If the drought in California and ice melting in the Arctic was not so bad already, a new study discovers a warmer world which would be the cause of increase in emission of greenhouse gases from ecosystem, thus causing more of global warming with the source as global warming.
The study takes 800,000 years of ice core data and puts it into a mathematical model. Researchers were able to explain on Monday about a correlation between the rising temperatures and a spike in greenhouse gas emissions across many ice ages.
“This gives a direct deduction from this past data that there is a strong effect of the temperature on concentrations on carbon dioxide and methane, in other words two major greenhouse gases,” Tim Lenton, a co-author on the paper from the University of Exeter, told CBS News. “That gives us a direct confirmation purely from the data that there is this positive feedback loop.”
Even though this temperature and greenhouse gas data is from past ice ages, Lenton said there are lessons for the Earth moving forward. The world saw record high temperatures in 2014 and the models suggest rising emissions in the coming decades will result in significantly higher temperatures as well as other impacts such as worsening floods and the disappearance of glaciers.
“The interesting thing is that we are going to world with less ice cover, so we wouldn’t expect the same feedback from changing ice and snow cover because we are melting that away,” he said. “But this study is focused on temperature and greenhouse gases and they should still be there now and into the future.”
“It is giving us confirmation that as we are driving the global temperature, we should expect the Earth to respond with further increases in carbon dioxide and methane,” he said.
Past studies have discovered that there were higher levels of greenhouse gas emissions at the time of ice ages than modern times. But until now, scientists had a tough time to discern the drivers for this trend from the reports of gas bubbles contained in ice cores.
Some scientists had pointed to Antarctic temperatures increasing ahead of CO2 variations as proof that temperature was a driver of CO2 changes. But more recent studies have cast doubt on there being a significant time lag between CO2 and temperature.
Another co-author on the study, George Sugihara, who is with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, turned to his dynamical systems theory for providing the strongest evidence of a connection. Originating in 2012, the theory looks at two factors which affect one another over time to prove casualty.
“I think this is a pretty heavy piece of evidence, a pretty compelling piece of evidence,” Sugihara told CBS News of the link between temperatures and emissions. “It basically reinforces our mechanistic understand of the processes at work.”