Research claim: dropping CO2 caused formation of Antarctic ice cap

Meanwhile today while CO2 is increasing, the Antarctic ice cap is also increasing.

Bill Illis writes about it:

Ice sheets formed in Antarctica about 35 million years ago when CO2 was about 1,200 ppm. Ice sheets also formed in Antarctica about 350 to 290 million years ago when CO2 was about 350 ppm. Ice sheets also formed in Antarctica about 450 to 430 million years ago when CO2 was about 4,500 ppm. The more common denominator is when continental drift places Antarctica at the south pole.

Animation from Exploratorium.edu - click for source

Below, Antarctica today.

Source: University of Illinois

Antarctic Icecap as of 9/13 Source: University of Illinois Polar Research Group

New data illuminates Antarctic ice cap formation

From a Bristol University Press release issued 13 September 2009

A paper published in Nature

New carbon dioxide data confirm that formation of the Antarctic ice-cap some 33.5 million years ago was due to declining carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

A team of scientists from Bristol, Cardiff and Texas A&M universities braved the lions and hyenas of a small East African village to extract microfossils from rocks which have revealed the level of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere at the time of the formation of the ice-cap.

Geologists have long speculated that the formation of the Antarctic ice-cap was caused by a gradually diminishing natural greenhouse effect. The study’s findings, published in Nature online, confirm that atmospheric CO2 started to decline about 34 million years ago, during the period known to geologists as the Eocene – Oligocene climate transition, and that the ice sheet began to form about 33.5 million years ago when CO2 in the atmosphere reached a tipping point of around 760 parts per million (by volume).

The new findings will add to the debate around rising CO2 levels in the Earth’s atmosphere as the world’s attention turns to the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen which opens later this year.

Dr Gavin Foster from the University of Bristol and a co-author on the paper said: “By using a rather unique set of samples from Tanzania and a new analytical technique that I developed, we have, for the first time, been able to reconstruct the concentration of CO2 across the Eocene-Oligocene boundary – the time period about 33.5 million years ago when ice sheets first started to grow on Eastern Antarctica. “

Professor Paul Pearson from Cardiff University’s School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, who led the mission to the remote East Africa village of Stakishari said: “About 34 million years ago the Earth experienced a mysterious cooling trend. Glaciers and small ice sheets developed in Antarctica, sea levels fell and temperate forests began to displace tropical-type vegetation in many areas.

“The period culminated in the rapid development of a continental-scale ice sheet on Antarctica, which has been there ever since. We therefore set out to establish whether there was a substantial decline in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels as the Antarctic ice sheet began to grow.”

Co-author Dr Bridget Wade from Texas A&M University Department of Geology and Geophysics added: “This was the biggest climate switch since the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

“Our study is the first to provide a direct link between the establishment of an ice sheet on Antarctica and atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and therefore confirms the relationship between carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and global climate.”

The team mapped large expanses of bush and wilderness and pieced together the underlying local rock formations using occasional outcrops of rocks and stream beds. Eventually they discovered sediments of the right age near a traditional African village called Stakishari. By assembling a drilling rig and extracting hundreds of meters of samples from under the ground they were able to obtain exactly the piece of Earth’s history they had been searching for.

Further information:

The paper:Atmospheric carbon dioxide through the Eocene–Oligocene climate transition. Paul N. Pearson, Gavin L. Foster & Bridget S. Wade. Nature online, Sunday 13th September.

Advertisements

  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Nogw

What if because antarctica it is located at the south pole. Wouldn’t it be a simpler explanation?

Adam from Kansas

While I don’t believe (I’m Christian) in the geologic timescale of billions of years this does put a rather big dent in the idea that the world has never been warmer and CO2 levels are the highest they’ve ever been. Let the factories continue to output CO2 then, by the time we reach 760 PPM we will actually have green technology worthy of replacing coal and oil.
Seriously though, does that mean that man is to blame for the MWP and the Romans and early Chinese culture contributed enough CO2 to the Earth’s atmosphere to create the Roman Warm Period. Still based on an idea that CO2 is a more potent greenhouse gas at the current level then it actually is really.

Bill Illis

Ice sheets formed in Antarctica about 35 million years ago when CO2 was about 1,200 ppm.
Ice sheets also formed in Antarctica about 350 to 290 million years ago when CO2 was about 350 ppm.
Ice sheets also formed in Antarctica about 450 to 430 million years ago when CO2 was about 4,500 ppm.
The more common denominator is when continental drif t places Antarctica at the south pole.

Peter Plail

I had to double check my calendar – no, it’s definitely not April 1st.

michel

If true, and one will need a bit of convincing about the accuracy of the techniques to that distance in time, then this is the first proven case in which CO2 declines plausibly caused temperature declines. So very interesting, and an argument in favor of the concept that reducing CO2ppm will actually have the desired effect.

P Wilson

Interesting. 760ppm of c02 led to a freeze over tipping point. Not a global warming scenario exactly, given such a high level of potent heat trpping gas

J. H. Folsom

Very careful wording here, very unfortunate that it will be used to fuel climate change legislation.
In particular interest, this line
“Our study is the first to provide a direct link between the establishment of an ice sheet on Antarctica and atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and therefore confirms the relationship between carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and global climate.”
The only relationship that this study actually establishes is that the Antarctic sheet formed when Co2 dipped to roughly double current levels.
Now assuming that’s causal, which the tone of the Nature article leans toward ( as for the research paper, I couldn’t comment ), it actually disproves the need for any climate change legislation to prevent the ice caps dissapearing, as we’d have to roughly double output to get the greenhouse effect to above Antarctic forming, and it certainly disproves the need to cut emissions to accomplish the same thing.
Though, that’s falling into a trap, as you are then agreeing with the premise that Co2 is causal.

William

Looks like we’re only half way there to getting CO2 levels back to their normal pre-Eocene levels. With the icecaps melted think of the vast expanses of land available for cultivation and settlement on Greenland and Antartica as well as the improvement in climate for northern Canada, Europe and Siberia.
Can anyone estimate with whether the addition of these lands will offset those that get flooded due to the sea level rise?
I’m not sure wiping out Wall Street and Washington DC would necessarily be a bad thing. We could make the capital of the USA Topeka, KS. It would make it easier for everyone in the USA to attend protest marches there and the politicians would save on Jet fuel getting to work.
Thanks
William

John G

So CO2 declined and caused temperature decline and ice caps 35 million years ago, but in recent millions of years CO2 declines and advances follow temperature changes. When did the flip-flop happen?

RickA

It will be interesting to study this paper to see which came first – the chicken or the egg.
In other words – did the drop in temperature cause the CO2 to drop or did the drop in CO2 cause the temperature to drop.

Wondering Aloud

What about the non correlation with previous ice ages? Why is the Greenland ice cap 160K years old? A CO2 drop 34mya caused an ice age starting 2mya? Maybe declining temperature caused CO2 to drop? Wouldn’t that better fit the data?
Sorry knee jerk questions. It must be right it gives an answer that we wanted.

Peter Plail

Can any geologists out there confirm that “geologists have long speculated that the formation of the Antarctic ice-cap was caused by a gradually diminishing natural greenhouse effect”.
It is comforting, however, to know that there is an upper tipping point for CO2 at 760ppm, after which global warming will be replaced by global cooling!

George E. Smith

So the wolf was right, and it was that blessed lamb drinking in the water down stream that muddied up his water.
Well CO2 goes down, Ice goes up, presumably temperature goes up, surface is warm and muggy, clouds are high and ethereal, I see a patetrn !
CO2 causes warming; high clouds cause warming and mugginess; not a snowball’s chance in hell, that it happens the other way round, even if the cause doesn’t happen till after the effect.
George
PS Yes climate “Science” is better referred to as “Climatology”; rhymes with “Astrology”.

Charlie

John G, your post is related to my question.
How good of resolution and accuracy do they have in the CO2 dates? How good of resolution and accuracy do they have in the dates of ice formation in Antarctica?
Do we really know that the CO2 drop caused the cooling rather than the other way around?

Ray

Hmmm, are they trying the reverse engineering argument?

TerryBixler

The tipping point was lack of sunspots but the researchers were unable to find proxy fossils to match the criteria so instead went for CO2.

Nogw

Science is settled on a deep pit’s floor and WUWT pendulum oscillating above it is menacing “new age” science.

Mike A UK

This is completely off topic, so I apologise in advance. I am a 110% sceptic on the AGW and climate change stuff. I broadly understand the science and the nonsense that’s being put out and the truth that’s being suppressed. So for me, something has to be wrong with it all. But, a non-scientist asked ‘So who benefits from the lies?’ My answer seems so multi-headed; – green religion, scientists ensuring grants, politicians tuning into public opinion to get re-elected, capitalists devising trading schemes etc etc. And is not very convincing to the non-scientist. Has anyone put together a coherent history/framework of how this came about and just who benefits and to what end and extent? I’d appreciate a link or other pointer. Thanks.
Mike A UK

Dave Andrews

Well, on a first pass, we could say, if this paper is correct, that we are around halfway towards a situation where there might be serious danger of Antarctic melt if, all other things being equal, the level of CO2 is the most important factor. This would seem to imply that there are maybe 3 centuries to go before things become critical.
Perhaps we don’t need knee-jerk responses now and can take a more measured view?

D. Matteson

“By using a rather unique set of samples from Tanzania and a new analytical technique that I developed, we have, for the first time, been able to reconstruct the concentration of CO2 …..”
Do the words “unique set of samples” and “new analytical technique” seem familiar?

Nogw

It was the “progressive” decrease which made everything down.

Peter Plail

As Anthony commented in the opening paragraph, if the antarctic ice-cap is growing, does this mean that we can expect sea levels to drop globally?

Dr A Burns

http://www.geocraft.com/WVFossils/Carboniferous_climate.html
…suggests that CO2 levels fell from 2400 ppm 180 M yrs ago to today … but temperatures started falling 33 M yrs ago.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:All_palaeotemps.png
… shows falling temperatures for 540 M yrs … with lots of fluctuations. 60 to 30 M yrs ago shows the greatest fall.
Both temperature plots show very poor correlation with CO2 concentrations.
Despite these, the key issue is that MAN’S fossil fuel burning is supposed to be causing “alarming” warming. Fossil fuel burning increased dramatically after 1945 but the rate of temperature rise declined, instead of increasing as claimed by alarmists.
http://www.q-skills.com/tmpvff2.jpg
I am amazed why this graph is not published more widely. I am still waiting for an alarmist to point out exactly when the recent “alarming” warming is supposed to have happened.

tim maguire

This study “confirms” that formation of the ice cap was caused by declining CO2?
Really? Confirms?
Post hoc, ergo propter hoc?
Where have I heard that before?

Phillip Bratby

Somebody should tell that hero Dr Gavin Foster, who braved the lions and hyenas of a small East African village (tho’ what lions and hyenas are doing in the village is anybody’d guess), that there is no such thing as “rather unique”. The set of samples are either unique or they are not unique.

Barry L.

Correlation is not causation…… [snip]:
“Our study is the first to provide a direct link between the establishment of an ice sheet on Antarctica and atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and therefore confirms the relationship between carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and global climate.”
[Followed by statement of disapproval, but snipped. ~ Evan]

P Walker

Mike A UK (14:19:54) : You might want to start with Red Hot Lies , by Chris Horner . It deals with the US , but it’s a beginning . Also , reading this blog will prove useful – this subject gets discussed from time to time and folks from the UK have plenty to say about it .

deadwood

I can only assume that Nature now is in editorial denial over plate tectonics.
This article is absolute BS and should never have gotten past the gatekeeper. That it did says more about the standards of Nature that I wish to put in print.

Mike A UK. “Has anyone put together a coherent history/framework of how this came about and just who benefits and to what end and extent?”
Try this: Global Warming:How It All Began by Richard Courtney
http://www.john-daly.com/history.htm
The late John Daly’s website contains quite a lot of interesting material.

hunter

The first reponse sort of sums it very well:
If the Antarctic land mass was migrating to the nether southern regions, and losing so much heat, would that not be at least a strong part of why the ice sheets formed?
The truly negative impact of CO2 seems to be its ability to lower reasoning skills in its believers.
These fossils, I am sure, do not show if the ancient land mass moved a great floating ice cap system, does it?

Nogw

The accolites keep on producing petty theories hoping the Prophet will choose theirs for his next powerpoint.

John F. Hultquist

Mike A UK (14:19:54) : You asked for:
coherent history/framework of how this came about
Try this: http://icecap.us/images/uploads/EDBLICKRANT.pdf

Det

Could there be a reversed effect in the past where oxygen concentration increased and CO2 decreased, mainly through increasing vegetation and then causing the ice ages?
There seems to be evidence, that the mix of gases was once like that.
However, we don’t know anything about the energy output of the early sun and it can very well been the reason for the ice ages.
Nor do we know, if not the wobble of the earth axis was causing the climate change.
(moving land mass, building of ice caps,…)
Therefore everything is speculation, unless we have all the facts!

TitiXXXX

“unique set of samples” … “a new analytical technique that I developed” … “we have, for the first time, been able to reconstruct” ….
déjà vu, isn’t it?
“The new findings will add to the debate around rising CO2 levels in the Earth’s atmosphere”
there is a debate? science not settled?

Peter Plail (14:08:41) :
“Can any geologists out there confirm that “geologists have long speculated that the formation of the Antarctic ice-cap was caused by a gradually diminishing natural greenhouse effect”.
From the Wikipedia:
“The causes of ice ages remain controversial for both the large-scale ice age periods and the smaller ebb and flow of glacial–interglacial periods within an ice age. The consensus is that several factors are important: atmospheric composition (the concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane); changes in the Earth’s orbit around the Sun known as Milankovitch cycles (and possibly the Sun’s orbit around the galaxy); the motion of tectonic plates resulting in changes in the relative location and amount of continental and oceanic crust on the Earth’s surface, which affect wind and ocean currents; variations in solar output; the orbital dynamics of the Earth-Moon system; and the impact of relatively large meteorites, and volcanism including eruptions of supervolcanoes.
Some of these factors influence each other. For example, changes in Earth’s atmospheric composition (especially the concentrations of greenhouse gases) may alter the climate, while climate change itself can change the atmospheric composition (for example by changing the rate at which weathering removes CO2).
Maureen Raymo, William Ruddiman and others propose that the Tibetan and Colorado Plateaus are immense CO2 “scrubbers” with a capacity to remove enough CO2 from the global atmosphere to be a significant causal factor of the 40 million year Cenozoic Cooling trend. They further claim that approximately half of their uplift (and CO2 “scrubbing” capacity) occurred in the past 10 million years.”
The current Icehouse is believed to have commenced following the formation of the Panama Peninsula, isolating the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. The Strait Magellan was also closed prior to this period. The formation of the circumpolar current in the Southern Ocean probably also played a role.

gofer

I keep reading how complicated climate science is, but it seems quite simple, based on their own statements…greenhouse gases, especially CO2 is reponsible for every climate event, change, effect, disaster, etc. How complicated is that? /sar

Roddy Baird

“The accolites keep on producing petty theories hoping the Prophet will choose theirs for his next powerpoint”
Oh dear, time to wipe the coffee off my monitor screen again. Too funny! I assume that should be “pretty” but “petty” also works.

Ron de Haan

All they are promoting is the infantile notion that low CO2 levels represent “cold” and high “CO2” levels represent heat. It’s childish AGW propaganda.
Unbelievable that this garbage is written by grown up scientists…!

Urederra

And what about the faint sun paradox?

D. Matteson (14:22:11) :
“By using a rather unique set of samples from Tanzania and a new analytical technique that I developed, we have, for the first time, been able to reconstruct the concentration of CO2 …..”
Do the words “unique set of samples” and “new analytical technique” seem familiar?

Vaguely.
One thing is an analytical technique, and other a new statistical technique, or analysis.
Anyway, It would be interesting to see the paper where this new technique has been described and validated. I would be more suspicious if the paper where the technique is described for first time is this one.

“Our study is the first to provide a direct link between the establishment of an ice sheet on Antarctica and atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and therefore confirms the relationship between carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and global climate.”
Repeat after me. Association is not causation. Relation is not causation.

Ron de Haan

Talking about childish propaganda:
Though stalled, C&T still alive and well.
Keep calling those Senators, because they represent the last stop before Copenhagen.
If we fail to stop the C&T bill in the US there will be a Copenhagen Treaty.
If the US Senate rejects the climate bill, the Copenhagen outlook to close a Climate Treaty will be dire.
http://www.cleanskies.com/articles/gop-beware-though-now-stalled-cap-and-trade-alive-and-well

Richard M

“By assembling a drilling rig and extracting hundreds of meters of samples from under the ground they were able to obtain exactly the piece of Earth’s history they had been searching for.”
I imagine Mann said essentially the same thing when he ran into BCPs.

Det,
One thing to keep in mind is the ratio of the very minor trace gas CO2 to the major atmospheric component O2. CO2 is about 387 parts per million, while O2 is about 209,500 parts per million.

Louis Hissink

As a professional exploration geologist, I can safely state that we have no idea what causes ice ages. They seem to be associated with mass species extinctions but this paper seems to good too be true, and it took a new analytic technique to verify the AGW thesis as well – this smacks of producing data to support the brief.
Try this in the mining business – paraphrasing it “we have shown deposit ABC to now be economic as the result of a new analytical technique”. Same old moose pasture but dressed up differently.
And who is going to get funding to replicate their work – and could take years to do, so it’s another timely announcement, too timely me thinks.

Robert Coté (15:39:52),
There is no verifiable “direct link”, either. There is, however, a direct link between articles like this and financial grants.

Smokey (15:50:27) :
There is no verifiable “direct link”, either. There is, however, a direct link between articles like this and financial grants.

Inflammation equals financialization? Good one.

Dermot O'Logical

Does the paper publish the R-squared coefficient, giving the level of correlation between CO2 and ice area?
If I remember right, the hockey-stick paper authors refused to publish their R-squared, and it was subsequently found to be near zero.

Suzanne

Haven’t any of the authors or reviewers of this deluded paper looked at the relationship between CO2 and temperature in the Antarctic ice cores? As temperatures decrease, the CO2 stays high for centuries before dropping, a delay of about 2,000 years. There is no way that technique used in the rocks has anywhere near a 2,000 year resolution. One just can’t date old rocks to such a precise level. Based on the Pleistocene sequence of events the most likely scenario is that as it got colder, CO2 was absorbed by the cooling oceans.

Jerry Haney

If less CO2 caused an increase in the ice of Anarctica, why has the ice increased in the Anarctic during an increase in CO2 the past number of years?

Berry R

The consensus pre-global warming hysteria was that the reason Antarctica got colder was primarily its growing isolation for other continents, which allowed ocean currents to circulate around it rather than up toward the tropics. Antarctica was initially connected to both Australia and South America, which meant that the currents were forced up around the equator. Australia broke away first. I don’t recall the exact timing, but it was after the die-off of the dinosaurs. Antarctica apparently got somewhat colder after Australia broke away, but the glaciers didn’t really start heading for continental scale until the connection to South America was broken around 20-25 million years ago. At that point the ocean currents could flow around Antarctica without heading to the tropics and collecting heat before coming back down.
Antarctica actually had a collection of land mammals for quite some time. Based on very limited fossils they were basically cold country versions of the old island South America mammals. Antarctic fossils have been found of Marsupials, the group that includes armadillos and sloths, and some now-extinct South American hoofed animals. They also apparently included very large flightless carnivorous birds.
I get the feeling that the Global Warming types are stomping in sciences they don’t understand enough that eventually there is going to be a backlash. Let’s see: stomp around in Paleontology. Yep, the chronology of Antarctic glaciers gets redone to fit the theory. Yep, the history of the Medieval period has to be revised to get rid of the warm period and the little ice age. Yep, economic predictions have to be reinvented so we can tell you how much CO2 the world will be emitting a hundred years from now. Yep, statistics has to be reinvented so that dirty, high uncertainty data can fuel a degree of certainty high enough to justify tossing away hundreds of billions if not trillions of dollars worth of infrastructure.
If you look at the reactions of the fields these guys are tromping around in closely you’ll see quiet indirect, I don’t want to get attacked by a bunch of global warming nutballs, expressions of what is basically contempt from a lot of them, mixed with attempts to cut off a slice of the global warming grant pie for the fields involved.