Study: Climate 460 MYA was like today, but thought to have CO2 levels 5-20 times as high

This image provided for timeline reference and is not from the study cited below

From the University of Leicester press office: An ancient Earth like ours

Geologists reconstruct the Earth’s climate belts between 460 and 445 million years ago

An international team of scientists including Mark Williams and Jan Zalasiewicz of the Geology Department of the University of Leicester, and led by Dr. Thijs Vandenbroucke, formerly of Leicester and now at the University of Lille 1 (France), has reconstructed the Earth’s climate belts of the late Ordovician Period, between 460 and 445 million years ago.

The findings have been published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA – and show that these ancient climate belts were surprisingly like those of the present.

The researchers state: “The world of the ancient past had been thought by scientists to differ from ours in many respects, including having carbon dioxide levels much higher – over twenty times as high – than those of the present. However, it is very hard to deduce carbon dioxide levels with any accuracy from such ancient rocks, and it was known that there was a paradox, for the late Ordovician was known to include a brief, intense glaciation – something difficult to envisage in a world with high levels of greenhouse gases. “

An ancient Earth like ours

A specimen of the chitinozoan species Armoricochitina nigerica (length = c. 0.3mm). Chitinozoans are microfossils of marine zooplankton in the Ordovician. Their distribution allows to track climate belts in deep time, much in a way that zooplankton has been used for climate modeling in the Cenozoic. A. nigerica is an important component of the Polar Fauna during the late Ordovician Hirnantian glaciation.

The team of scientists looked at the global distribution of common, but mysterious fossils called chitinozoans – probably the egg-cases of extinct planktonic animals – before and during this Ordovician glaciation. They found a pattern that revealed the position of ancient climate belts, including such features as the polar front, which separates cold polar waters from more temperate ones at lower latitudes. The position of these climate belts changed as the Earth entered the Ordovician glaciation – but in a pattern very similar to that which happened in oceans much more recently, as they adjusted to the glacial and interglacial phases of our current (and ongoing) Ice Age.

This ‘modern-looking’ pattern suggests that those ancient carbon dioxide levels could not have been as high as previously thought, but were more modest, at about five times current levels (they would have had to be somewhat higher than today’s, because the sun in those far-off times shone less brightly).

“These ancient, but modern-looking oceans emphasise the stability of Earth’s atmosphere and climate through deep time – and show the current man-made rise in greenhouse gas levels to be an even more striking phenomenon than was thought,” the researchers conclude.

Reference: Vandenbroucke, T.R.A., Armstrong, H.A., Williams, M., Paris, F., Zalasiewicz, J.A., Sabbe, K., Nolvak, J., Challands, T.J., Verniers, J. & Servais, T. 2010. Polar front shift and atmospheric CO2 during the glacial maximum of the Early Paleozoic Icehouse. PNAS doi/10.1073/pnas.1003220107.

Contacts: (Mark Williams and Jan Zalasiewicz at the Department of Geology, University of Leicester: Respectively tel. 0116 252 3642 and 0116 2523928, and e-mails mri@le.ac.uk and jaz1@le.ac.uk).

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Rocky

Error in title: The report says that CO2 levels were not 20x higher, more like 5x higher
Was the sun really that much dimmer ?
REPLY: Actually both 20x and 5x were stated in the article, but I’ve added emphasis so that readers see both points – Anthony

James

If anyone can find a statistically significant correlation on that graph between CO2 and Average temperature, then be my guest.
There is not a single direct correlation over the past 500 million years directly linking the two imho.
There are times when they move in the same direction and times when they move in opposite directions.
I’d love to have a look at the raw statistical data and do a full statistical analysis.
I’d bet that mathematically speaking there would be no significant correlation.

Doug Proctor

First, their conclusion was that the pCO2 was five, not 20, times as high as today. Plus their gratuitous green comment that the current rise is more extraordinary than realized, is both irritating and nonsensical. The variance of 1850 and 2010 is not possible to detect through geological studies of even “shallow” time: the mechanisms are not that good (even glacial ice is questionable over thousands of years, due to possible changes in pCO2 in ice-encased bubbles). As a geologist, I am very aware of the plus/minus of geological conclusions. But the gratuitous comment places this fellows in a chummy camp and shows their social concerns and values. Bully for them.

Completely clueless paper.
They assume that the difference in temperature during the Ordovician was due to “5X CO2” and negate their own reasoning about the Ordovician ice age.
How is it that all the corals and sea shells didn’t dissolve? Romm tells us that a few ppm is all that is needed to turn their shells soft. Have the chemical properties of Aragonite changed?

latitude

CO2 does not warm the planet, the sun does.
CO2 can only help to insulate the planet, and that is only very little.
Obviously it’s not even good at it, because when CO2 levels were sky high, the planet still went into ice ages.
You couldn’t even find 0.038% of anything.

Phil's Dad

They have fallen into the oldest trap in science. “The hypothesis is right therefore the data must be wrong.”
Sorry chaps – try again.

latitude

“How is it that all the corals and sea shells didn’t dissolve?”
===================================================
Steve, because corals are lazy. They let their symbiotic algae/dinos change the pH which makes CaCarb precipitate out of solution.
They don’t have to do a thing but sit there and let it happen.
Changing the ambient pH, either up or down, will have very little effect on them at all.

James Sexton

lol, CO2 levels have to be lower than thought to fit our preconceived notions regards CO2 and the effect it has on our climate. Nice bit of science work there. How many CO2 molecules can dance on the tip of a needle?
The study was even more brilliant in that now we can apparently quantify CO2’s effect by comparing the temps and CO2 levels of then to the solar radiance of then compared to now. Very nice.
This ‘modern-looking’ pattern suggests that those ancient carbon dioxide levels could not have been as high as previously thought, but were more modest, at about five times current levels (they would have had to be somewhat higher than today’s, because the sun in those far-off times shone less brightly).
My question is, did these people get paid for this? Did we foot the bill?

Phil Clarke

Tabulate corals occur in the limestones and calcareous shales of the Ordovician and Silurian periods, and often form low cushions or branching masses alongside Rugose corals. Their numbers began to decline during the middle of the Silurian period and they finally became extinct at the end of the Permian period, 250 million years ago. The skeletons of Tabulate corals are composed of a form of calcium carbonate known as calcite.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coral#Evolutionary_history

Enneagram

That was THE LOST PARADISE And we lost it because somebody ate from the tree of WRONG KNOWLEDGE, and some levogyred people gave him the Paleo-Nobel-prize!!…
Scientists of that time investigated the issue and determined that all those who ate from the fruit of that wrong tree, drinking its juice, since then called Kool-Aid juice, got their DNA chain turned to the left in them and in all their descendants. That peculiarity of theirs was afterward known as the “Original Sin”.

Keith in Hastings UK

It seems that they moved down to 5 times current CO2 on the basis that CO2 is such a villain that the climate couldn’t have been as they found it to be, with 20 times the CO2. That is, they buy the CO2 story totally, and adjust other estimates in light of the CO2 orthodoxy.
Proves nothing, given the estimation difficulties around all this, except that we find what we want to find, and/or want our grants to continue….?
How long I wonder before that graph – from 2001 – gets changed….

Pamela Gray

Yet another paper attempting to report on important research but is shackled by its funding source: Likely provided by “green grants”, which specify what the grants can be used for. If you wish another grant, your published research must show that the grant was used for its stated purpose: investigations into global warming. It is most likely the only large sums of money available so you play the game to continue working in your chosen field.
Which leads me to this issue: Pacs and politicians on the stump are supposed to declare where they get their money, and money sources can’t be in the form of “laundered fronts”. Why? Because we have the right to know what compromises might be possible between these bed partners. Science has now also shown its willingness to compromise based on who is funding it. Therefore it may be time for laws to be passed about declaration of funding sources for any published paper providing research results, peer reviewed or not. Notice that currently, we must pay in order to read most research articles, including the bottom of the article that usually includes gratuitous mention of funding sources. The tax paying citizen is being forced to accept and even pay for a horse without being given the chance to look at its teeth before forking over money. A simple solution? Require published abstracts to also include funding sources.

Enneagram

Those who hate CO2, should consider the following:
They eat CO2 everytime they swallow that junk food of their choice., as carbohydrates, made by plants which breathed in CO2 making it react with water and sunlight.
They eat CO2 everytime they enjoy candies and chocolates, coffee,etc.
They eat CO2 while they eat meat, the muscles of cattle which ate grass, in turn, made of water, sunlight and CO2.
They wear CO2 everyday, as the polymer of glucose called Cotton,
They exhale CO2, after every breath of oxygen. The CO2 YOU exhale is breathed by plants to give you back oxygen you breath.
Without CO2 NO F## YOU….!!!!!!!!

Colin from Mission B.C.

Doug Proctor says:
August 10, 2010 at 8:31 am
Plus their gratuitous green comment that the current rise is more extraordinary than realized, is both irritating and nonsensical.
Glad it was not just me. This final sentence struck me as completely incongruous with the rest of the article, sticking out like a sore thumb. It seems there is very little modern science that doesn’t get tainted with by the AGW cult.

“These ancient, but modern-looking oceans emphasise the stability of Earth’s atmosphere and climate through deep time – and show the current man-made rise in greenhouse gas levels to be an even more striking phenomenon than was thought,” the researchers conclude.
Man-made CO2 a more striking phenomenon? A natural rise in CO2 levels of, say, 1200 ppm more striking than 80 ppm of anthropogenic rise?
And no “runaway effect”, neither.

Alan the Brit

Lenin re-wrote history, Stalin did it, Hitler did it, all Socialists of sorts & anti-capitalist/free-enterprise! What’s new when money is on the table. Heck, if they paid me enough I’d believe in AGW, but they haven’t got enough money!

Alan

Below the graph, it reads: “This image provided for timeline reference and is not from the study cited below”. Hmmm. Ok. Perhaps it should be emphasized a bit more?

steveta_uk

> latitude says:
> August 10, 2010 at 8:41 am
> You couldn’t even find 0.038% of anything.
My house is approx 250 cubic metres.
Therefore 0.038% of my house of approx 95 litres.
95 Litres is approx 180 bottles of beer.
I’m sure I could find 180 bottles of beer.

PJB

Gee, a huge cycle in global temperatures every 150 million years…..sounds like something to do with the solar system and the rotation of our galactic arm and the presence or absence of cosmic fields and forces.
[CO2] can go where it wants to, apparently, without major consequence as far as the planet’s temperature is concerned. Unless we increase our atmospheric density a few dozen times or so, temps won’t depend on [CO2].
The fault, my friends, may be in the stars and not in ourselves…

Milwaukee Bob

….and show the current man-made rise in greenhouse gas levels to be an even more striking phenomenon than was thought…..
So Professor, let me see if I have this correct: Your saying a 100ppm “man-made” rise in CO2 (if the “man-made” CO2 IS what has caused the “rise”) coupled with a .6C degree rise in temp, compared to a 1500ppm “natural” decrease in CO2 coupled with a 10.0C rise in temp during the Silurian Period – is a “striking phenomenon”??
Well, who am I to disagree???

Andrew30

There are some items that are inferred or directly mentioned that require some clarification.
Re: “Climate’s changed before”
2. Climate reacts to whatever forces it to change at the time, which now is dominated by humans.
Re: “It’s just a natural cycle”
21. Ancient natural cycles are irrelevant for attributing recent global warming to humans.
Re: “There’s no correlation between CO2 and temperature”
43. There is long-term correlation between CO2 and global temperature; other effects are short-term.
Re: “CO2 was higher in the late Ordovician”
104. The sun was much cooler during the Ordovician.
These succinct and true rebuttals are courtesy of:
http://climateprogress.org/2010/08/09/rebutting-climate-science-disinformer-talking-points-in-a-single-line
They are therefore complete and un-contestable.
For the uneducated and ignorant among you, please consult realclimate.org for the supporting diatribes.
This discussion is over, move along.
/sarc

It turns out that it is not surface temperature but the sun which controls the level of specific humidity at the tropopause, where the atmospheric climate action is. So the rice growers can stop worrying.
http://tallbloke.wordpress.com/2010/08/08/interesting-correlation-sunspots-vs-specific-humidity/

groper

460 MYA the earth was probably in a different orbit, continents as we know it didn’t exist.

Dave F

I thought the sun as a forcing was pretty much constant? Or is that true when convenient?

David

Slightly off-topic, but isn’t EVERYBODY (warmists in particular) missing the point about CO2…?
If you read Kyoto, it talks about reducing CO2 EQUIVALENT – it doesn’t actually require CO2 itself to be reduced. However, the ‘alarmists’ have jumped on CO2 as the ‘bete noir’ and all the politicians have followed like lambs – or tax opportunists, if you like – because its pretty difficult to tax water vapour, etc.
So now we have the loony situation where we all have to suffer artifial reductions in a gas which is essential to plant growth, etc – because, like speed and speed cameras, it can be MEASURED – so therefore becomes a soft target. Never mind whether it will have the slightest effect on the climate…

Enneagram

The position of these climate belts changed as the Earth entered the Ordovician glaciation – but in a pattern very similar to that which happened in oceans much more recently, as they adjusted to the glacial and interglacial phases of our current (and ongoing) Ice Age.
This is interesting as it is the same phenomenon as Stephen Wilde’s observation about the equatorward displacement of the jet streams position.
A “Goredician” glaciation coming?

Robert

Enneagram,
would you please refrain from derogatory comments at the end of your posts?
please and thanks

LarryD

“I’d love to have a look at the raw statistical data and do a full statistical analysis. ”
James, the graphic is from http://www.geocraft.com/WVFossils/Carboniferous_climate.html
Temperature after C.R. Scotese http://www.scotese.com/climate.htm
CO2 after R.A. Berner, 2001 (GEOCARB III) http://www.geocraft.com/WVFossils/Reference_Docs/Geocarb_III-Berner.pdf
Have a happy.

Stephen Wilde

“The position of these climate belts changed as the Earth entered the Ordovician glaciation – but in a pattern very similar to that which happened in oceans much more recently, as they adjusted to the glacial and interglacial phases of our current (and ongoing) Ice Age.”
Well of course. As I keep saying the latitudinal movement of the air circulation systems provides the mechanism for the variable speed of the hydrological cycle which regulates tropospheric temperatures whether during or between ice ages regardless of whatever disuptive events are thrown at the system. Otherwise the oceans could never have remained liquid.
Climate change in any given location on the Earth’s surface is simply a reflection of the changing position of that location in relation to the air circulations above or near it.
The flexibility of the hydrological cycle and the phase changes of water simply will not allow a change to the temperature equilibrium set by the pressure and density differentials between oceans, air and space and not therefore set by the greenhouse effect.
A change in the strength of the greenhouse effect simply involves a miniscule change in the speed of the hydrological cycle and a miniscule latitudinal shift in the air circulation patterns.

Jason

” James says:
August 10, 2010 at 8:29 am
If anyone can find a statistically significant correlation on that graph between CO2 and Average temperature, then be my guest.
There is not a single direct correlation over the past 500 million years directly linking the two imho. ”
When I look at the chart it appears to me that every time you have a spike in CO2 you see a decrease in temp. that’s the only correlation I can come up with.

Stephen Wilde

Oh, and note that persistent topping out of temperatures at 22C.
That is a consequence of evaporation at that temperaure (and therefore the speed of the hydrological cycle) always being fast enough to remove any further or extra energy thrown at the system.
That temperature of 22C is pressure and density dependant and therefore an illustration of the power of the phase changes of water and not CO2 or GHG dependent.
Once one knows what is happening the evidence is everywhere but it has been ignored in favour of the simplistic CO2 theory of AGW.

Schrodinger's Cat

Excellent suggestion by Pamela Gray: Funding sources should be disclosed.
I like that.

Enneagram

This seems the end of the Anglocinian period as transpires from the decaying of scientist-mamals. 🙂

Duster

The chart does not show the error envelope of estimated atmospheric CO2 contents. The current preferred estimate is the Geocarb series – I think Geocarb III may be the most recent – which estimates fairly high levels of CO2 in the early Phanerozoic. Other estimates are lower. The black curve in the chart is the Geocarb mean estimate. See http://www.geocraft.com/WVFossils/Reference_Docs/Geocarb_III-Berner.pdf for the most recent revision. The fact remains that there is no evidence of any strong correlation between CO2 levels and estimated global temperature over geological time spans.

George E. Smith

Well you can see just by eye; without any computation necessary that the Earth Temperature exactly matches the logarithm (base 2) of the CO2 level; thereby proving Schneider’s Law which is taught to every climate science student in the very first lecture.
It always helps to have data to back up your claims
I particularly like that period from 600 myr ago for the next 125 m yrs where the Temperature stays absolutely fixed at about 22 deg C.
You might have some difficulty finding a book of log tables to base 2; but if you can find one; then you can look up the ranges of values for CO2 ratios where the log base 2 doesn’t change at all with the argument which is why the Temperature doesn’t change for that range of CO2 ratios.
But watch out; by 2100 per the IPCC the earth Temperature is finally going to break through that 22 deg C ;”do not exceed” ceiling that it has been stuck below for 600 million years. That will be something to watch; and I plan on staying around to see that historic event.

Alexander

Somehow that reminds me of the late Soviet Union, where there was that annoying and stupid tradition of referencing the “decisive role of the Party” everywhere where it was possible or even impossible. So you had a decisive role of the Party in opening a new factory, a decisive role of the Party in paving another road in the town et cetera ad infinitum.
People even coined a humorous short poem about this. “Uzhla zima, nastalo leto – spasibo Partii za eto!” (“Winter has passed and summer has come – all thanks to the Party!”).
But I wonder… Why this research made me remember this? Ah, never mind.

George E. Smith

I forgot to mention:- Notice how we are currently enjoying the lowest CO2 levels that this planet has ever had; well at least in the last 600 myr; and before that who cares what it was.

Bill Illis

It is not hard to see how there was intense glaciation at the South Pole between 460 Mya to 430 Mya and then from 360 Mya to 290 Mya.
http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/ctl/images/figure05_10.jpg
CO2 at 4,500 ppm (4 doublings or +12.0C less about -2.0C for the cooler Sun) and there shouldn’t have been glaciers then? I don’t know, put 5 continents on top of the South Pole and I think there is going to glaciers there (especially if the CO2 sensitivity is lower than 3.0C per doubling).
Basically we have to rewrite all of history just to conform with this theory.

Steve M. from TN

My house is approx 250 cubic metres.
Therefore 0.038% of my house of approx 95 litres.
95 Litres is approx 180 bottles of beer.
I’m sure I could find 180 bottles of beer.

pour the bottle of beer into your pool, and try to find it 😀

Steve M. from TN

“These ancient, but modern-looking oceans emphasise the stability of Earth’s atmosphere and climate through deep time – and show the current man-made rise in greenhouse gas levels to be an even more striking phenomenon than was thought,” the researchers conclude.

Interesting conclusion. Make sure the research grant money continues to flow.

Alexander

As an afterthought. These guys de-facto claim that current scientific methods for extraction of CO2 archeological record are off the target by the power of 4? In other words, that we can throw the entire CO2 archeological record out of the window? Because this seems to be the direct conclusion from their paper.

jorgekafkazar

steveta_uk says: > latitude says: “> You couldn’t even find 0.038% of anything.”
My house is approx 250 cubic metres. Therefore 0.038% of my house of approx 95 litres. 95 Litres is approx 180 bottles of beer. I’m sure I could find 180 bottles of beer.
Then you couldn’t find your house.

wsbriggs

My dumb question of the day, “Was the sun really 1/5th as energetic 450 My ago, or is that crass supposition to support their claims?”
My understanding is the sun’s output stabilized much before that.

James Sexton

Robert says:
August 10, 2010 at 9:51 am
“Enneagram,
would you please refrain from derogatory comments at the end of your posts?
please and thanks.”
I thought Enneagram’s previous comment was more sarcasm than derogatory.

Enneagram

George E. Smith says:
August 10, 2010 at 10:46 am ” That will be something to watch; and I plan on staying around to see that historic event”

Could you reveal your forecast for those of us who won’t be here then?

max

Argh, what I hate about graphs like the one from the article is that they give the impression that there is a linear relationship between CO2 concentration and warming caused by the greenhouse effect. While this article certainly spikes the idee fixe of the CAGW crowd that atmospheric CO2 is the primary driver of terrestrial temperature, it doesn’t really disprove that CO2 GH effect is not a component of terrestrial temperature because (as George E Smith noted while I was dealing with life instead of writing this post) the relationship is logarithmic not linear. Nor does it prove that a CO2 driven GH Effect is not the primary driver of the current warming trend, although it does cast doubt on the concept. This article will help in the millimeter by millimeter movement of the scientific portion of the CAGW crowd towards the denialist position that human CO2 emissions may not be the primary driver of the current (500 year) warming trend.

jorgekafkazar

Pamela Gray says: “…Currently, we must pay in order to read most research articles… The tax paying citizen is being forced to accept and even pay for a horse without being given the chance to look at its teeth before forking over money….”
The teeth are located at the front ends of horses, Pamela. Post-modern climate science has very few horse front ends.

P. Berkin

Bill Illis says:
August 10, 2010 at 10:59 am
…Basically we have to rewrite all of history just to conform with this theory.
Don’t put ideas into their heads!!!

Tom C

How much faster did the Earth rotate on axis 450 million years ago? Faster rotation rate will always lead to more rapid heat transfer between the low lats and poles, yielding a more uniform global temperature.

savethesharks

I about fell out of my chair on that last quote!
Could somebody please tell me…how such horrific and juvenile circular reasoning, could pass the Peer Review process?????
Oh yeah….I forgot….
Might as well change the name to Political Review process.
Chris
Norfolk, VA, USA