Study: Climate change is nothing new, in fact it was happening the same way 1.4 billion years ago

From the University of Southern Denmark and the department of natural variation comes this study saying what we’ve all known for years.

milankovitch[1]

Same forces as today caused climate changes 1.4 billion years ago

Natural forces have always caused the climate on Earth to fluctuate. Now researchers have found geological evidence that some of the same forces as today were at play 1.4 billion years ago.

Fluctuating climate is a hallmark of Earth, and the present greenhouse effect is by far the only force affecting today’s climate. On a larger scale the Earth’s climate is also strongly affected by how the Earth orbits around the sun; this is called orbital forcing of climate change. These changes happen over thousands of years and they bring ice ages and warming periods.

Now researchers from University of Southern Denmark, China National Petroleum Corporation and others have looked deep into Earth’s history and can reveal that orbital forcing of climate change contributed to shaping the Earth’s climate 1.4 billion years ago.

“This study helps us understand how past climate changes have affected Earth geologically and biologically”, says Donald Canfield, principal investigator and professor at Nordic Center for Earth Evolution, University of Southern Denmark.

The evidence comes from analyses of sedimentary records from the approximately 1.4 billion-year-old and exceptionally well preserved Xiamaling Formation in China.

Changes in wind patterns and ocean circulations

The sediments in the Xiamaling Formation have preserved evidence of repeated climate fluctuations, reflecting apparent changes in wind patterns and ocean circulation that indicates orbital forcing of climate change.

Today Earth is affected by fluctuations called the Milankovich cycles. There are three different Milankovich cycles, and they occur each 20,000, 40,000 and 100,000 years. Over the last one million years these cycles have caused ice ages every 100,000 years, and right now we are in the middle of a warming period that has so far lasted 11,000 years.

“Earth’s climate history is complex. With this research we can show that cycles like the Milankovich cycles were at play 1.4 billion years ago – a period, we know only very little about”, says Donald Canfield, adding:

“This research will also help us understand how Milankovitch cyclicity ultimately controls climate change on Earth.”

In the new scientific paper in the journal PNAS, the researchers report both geochemical and sedimentological evidence for repeated, short-term climate fluctuations 1.4 billion years ago. For example the fossilized sediments show how layers of organic material differed over time, indicating cycle changes in wind patterns, rain fall and ocean circulations.

“These cycles were a little different than today’s Milankovich cycles. They occurred every 12-16,000 years, 20-30,000 years and every 100,000 years. They were a little shorter – probably because the Moon was closer to Earth 1.4 billion years ago”, explains Donald Canfield.

###

Ref PNAS: Orbital forcing of climate 1.4 billion years ago Shuichang Zhanga, Xiaomei Wanga, Emma U. Hammarlundb, Huajian Wanga, M. Mafalda Costac, Christian J. Bjerrumd, James N. Connellyc, Baomin Zhanga, Lizeng Biane, and Donald E. Canfieldb.

Abstract

Fluctuating climate is a hallmark of Earth. As one transcends deep into Earth time, however, both the evidence for and the causes of climate change become difficult to establish. We report geochemical and sedimentological evidence for repeated, short-term climate fluctuations from the exceptionally well-preserved ∼1.4-billion-year-old Xiamaling Formation of the North China Craton. We observe two patterns of climate fluctuations: On long time scales, over what amounts to tens of millions of years, sediments of the Xiamaling Formation record changes in geochemistry consistent with long-term changes in the location of the Xiamaling relative to the position of the Intertropical Convergence Zone. On shorter time scales, and within a precisely calibrated stratigraphic framework, cyclicity in sediment geochemical dynamics is consistent with orbital control. In particular, sediment geochemical fluctuations reflect what appear to be orbitally forced changes in wind patterns and ocean circulation as they influenced rates of organic carbon flux, trace metal accumulation, and the source of detrital particles to the sediment.

Significance

There is a wealth of evidence pointing to dramatic short-term climate change on Earth over the last few million years. Much of this climate change is driven by variations of Earth’s orbit around the Sun with characteristic frequencies known as Milankovitch cycles. Robust evidence for orbitally driven climate change, however, becomes rare as one descends deep into Earth time. We studied an exceptional record of climate change as recorded in 1.4-billion-year-old marine sediments from North China. This record documents regular changes in subtropical/tropical Hadley Cell dynamics. These changes in dynamics controlled wind strength, rainfall, and ocean circulation, translated into cyclic variations in sediment geochemistry, much like the orbital control on climate today and in the recent past.

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61 thoughts on “Study: Climate change is nothing new, in fact it was happening the same way 1.4 billion years ago

  1. Fluctuating climate is a hallmark of Earth, (yeah) and the present greenhouse effect is by far the only force affecting today’s climate. ( WHAT??) Did not see GHE mentioned in the rest of the article!

  2. Fluctuating climate is a hallmark of Earth, and the present greenhouse effect is by far the only force affecting today’s climate.

    Missing a ‘not’?

  3. Should this first sentence of the second paragraph: Fluctuating climate is a hallmark of Earth, and the present greenhouse effect is by far the only force affecting today’s climate. Actually be written as : “Fluctuating climate is a hallmark of Earth, and the present greenhouse effect is by far not the only force affecting today’s climate.” ???

  4. Aren’t we in an interglacial period of the current ice age, the Quaternary Glaciation? Aren’t the “ice ages” referred to here, just the glacial periods of the current ice age? Also, aren’t Milankovitch cycles ultimately a solar phenomenon – earth being slightly closer or farther away from the sun?

    • Yes Blayne, quite right.
      Technically we are still in an ice age and have been so for 2 to 3 million years. This current ice age (the Quaternary Glaciation) is characterised by a repeating pattern of advancing and receding glaciers, with a period of about 100,000 years. We are currently in a warm phase known as an interglacial where the glaciers retreat (for a while). Our current interglacial is called the Holocene, the previous one 120,000 years ago, was called the Eemian (which was, incidentally, warmer than today)

      Milankovitch cycles do not pertain to variations in solar output or just distance from the Sun. They arise from a combination of variations in the Earth’s orbit, specifically changes in eccentricity, axial tilt and precession of the axial tilt.

    • BM:
      Earth’s distance is only a part. Earth’s obliquity (tilt) is very important for TOA insolation received for a given hemisphere. But when one hemisphere receives more than normal, the other receives less. But glaciated times occurred simultaneously for both hemispheres, and yet global temperature was a few degrees lower. Obviously greater complexity is at work.

  5. Would the repeated, long term, unequalized loading of millions of gigatons of ice cause a change in the tilt and wobble of the earths rotation and therefore it is not a constant value?

    China National Petroleum Corporation! – boy talk about an alarmist brain logic conundrum.
    “China, communist their good – Petroleum Corporation their pure evil. China, communist their good – Petroleum Corporation their pure evil. China, communist their good – Petroleum Corporation their pure evil. China, communist their good – Petroleum Corporation their pure evil.”

    What fun.

    • “Would the repeated, long term, unequalized loading of millions of gigatons of ice cause a change in the tilt and wobble of the earths rotation and therefore it is not a constant value?”

      No, not really, too small an effect.

  6. Abrupt climate change is normal.

    “Ice-core evidence of abrupt climate changes”
    http://www.pnas.org/content/97/4/1331.full

    “Abrupt onset and termination of the African Humid Period”
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277379199000815

    Willie Soon just got a paper he co-authored published yesterday. I guess they are now going to ask about his funding for this paper!

    “Dynamics of the intertropical convergence zone over the western Pacific during the Little Ice Age”
    Published online 09 March 2015
    http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/ngeo2375.html

    • “Abrupt Climate Change: Inevitable Surprises”. Published in 2002 by the National Academies Press (You can read it online free) . http://www.nap.edu/catalog/10136/abrupt-climate-change-inevitable-surprises

      “The climate record for the past 100,000 years clearly indicates that the climate system has undergone periodic–and often extreme–shifts, sometimes in as little as a decade or less. The causes of abrupt climate changes have not been clearly established, but the triggering of events is likely to be the result of multiple natural processes.”

    • Contributions
      H.Y. designed the study and wrote the manuscript. W.W. contributed to the section discussing climate model results. W.S. contributed significantly to improvements in the manuscript. Z.A., W.Z. and Z.L. contributed to discussion of the results and manuscript refinement. Y.W. and R.M.C. contributed to improving the English.

      • Barry, the authors all pitched in for:

        1) improvements in the manuscript;

        2) manuscript refinement;

        3) improving the English.

        And yet the result is gibberish. Trashcan science.

        “I can see by what you carry that you come from Barrytown”.

        More apposite:

        “Leave me or I’ll be just like the others you will meet
        They won’t act as kindly if they see you on the street .”

        An observation, not a threat.

        Barry, foxtrot oscar.

  7. Yeah, but it was funded by somebody with “Petroleum” in their name. Didn’t even bother to read the rest as it’s obviously biased. /scarc

  8. Just imagine if there had been SUVs back 1.4 billion years ago. Climate change would have been through the roof!

  9. Re: WUWT CC @ -1.4E9 yrs 150310

    Today Earth is affected by fluctuations called the Milankovich cycles. There are three different Milankovich cycles, and they occur each 20,000, 40,000 and 100,000 years. Over the last one million years these cycles have caused ice ages every 100,000 years, and right now we are in the middle of a warming period that has so far lasted 11,000 years.

    “Earth’s climate history is complex. With this research we can show that cycles like the Milankovich cycles were at play 1.4 billion years ago – a period, we know only very little about”, says Donald Canfield, adding:

    “This research will also help us understand how Milankovitch cyclicity ultimately controls climate change on Earth.”

    Etc. Vs.:

    The gaping hole in Milankovic’s theory is that it predicts that ice ages should follow the precessional cycle. In particular, the Northern Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere should have ice ages in alternation every 10,000 years, with the severity of the ice ages modulated by the eccentricity cycle. This is not at all what is observed. … [¶] The problem is not that the amplitude of radiative forcing associated with Milankovic cycles is small: it amounts to an enormous 100W/m2, with the amplitude determined by the eccentricity cycle. The problem is that the forcing occurs on the fast precessional time scale, whereas the climate response is predominately on a much slower 100,000 year time scale. Pierrehumbert, R.T., “Principles of Planetary Climate”, 11/19/08, ¶7.5.1, p. 353.

    It’s comforting to know that someone has at last mended Dr. Ray’s gaping hole in Milankovic’s theory, if not its spelling.

  10. Wow, I must be smarter than a 6th grader because I learned about Milankovic cycles in the 7th grade. As I have always said ” a little of this, little that and boom we’re back into another ice age. CO2 is too small of a force to keep it from happening

    • In what grade did you learn orders of magnitude in math class (e.g., 10-100 yrs. vs. 10,000-100,000 yrs)?

    • Oh my God, it’s worth watching the video just for the guy’s awesome accent! I love it!! (I was born in Scotland, but moved when I was three. It’s wild to think that might have been how I speak.)

      For some rrreeezin I’m mo’iva’ed to go chase some cyoo’ guruls with curuls.

  11. there was an article ont’ wireless this morning, some people had turned their watermill into a generating station with computer controlled sluices to boot. Claiming 15 KW per hour maximum some of which they could sell back to the grid. Article claimed that converting existing watermills in the SE UK could generate as much as proposed 7 barrage.
    I do like the sound of this as I imagine watermills are much less of a nuisance than windmills.

  12. In other news: chickens do not lay eggs because they’ve been observed to hatch from them. Film at 11.

  13. “These cycles were a little different than today’s Milankovich cycles. They occurred every 12-16,000 years, 20-30,000 years and every 100,000 years. They were a little shorter – probably because the Moon was closer to Earth 1.4 billion years ago”,

    Alternatively, the Earth had a smaller diameter and hence days were shorter. The expanding earth as posited by Prof. Sam Carey (and others) is another bugaboo in the misguided but all-too-popular “settled science” paradigm.

  14. Milankovitch (Croll) cycles do not explain past Ice Ages because we now know that climate changes from full glacial to interglacial can appear in a single century, far too rapidly to be caused by slow orbital changes over tens of thousands of years. We also now know that past glaciations occurred simultaneously in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, whereas they should be opposite if they were caused by orbital forcing. There are many other problems with the Milankovitch theory that involve the circular reasoning used to correlate orbital cycles with glacial/interglacial cycles.

    • Don,

      Please cite evidence for your assertion of the switch from full glacial to interglacial conditions occurring in just a century. It takes thousands of years for major continental ice sheets like the Laurentide completely to melt. A big chunk of it remained in Nunavik until 6500 years ago.

      The transition is a long, drawn out process, with alternating warm and cold spells.

      There is a problem with hemispheres only in some cyclic parameters. Not however with eccentricity, the orbital mechanical parameter controlling the 100,000 year cycle, When NH glaciation begins, it drags the SH along with it into the cold.

  15. Hmm…1.4 billion years, references to “long-term changes in the location of the Xiamaling relative to the position of the Intertropical Convergence Zone” and yet no mention of plate tectonics? I’d have expected the plate Xiamaling is on to have moved around, away and toward the ITCZ, during those billions of years. The closing of the Central American Seaway by the Isthmus of Panama would have affected ocean circulation too, and that was just millions of years ago.

    • The Isthmus of Panama has been present since at least the Paleocene. See Jaramillo et al., 2014, GSA Bull. This reports extensive field work on the stratigraphy of the Isthmus by the Smithsonian Tropical Institute. The hypothesis of a seaway through the Isthmus has been refuted by this study, which reports granite intrusions into a Paleocene basement at the neck of the Isthmus.

      • Neither Jaramillo nor anyone else has refuted any such thing. Why do you keep repeating this false, baseless assertion, when you have been shown over & over again irrefutable evidence of the existence of the seaway until around three million years ago & indeed that it reopened at least once during the Pleistocene?

        No wonder you won’t link to Jaramillo’s paper. Here is one from 2014 in which he discusses the effects of shoaling of the seaway during the Miocene, when it was still up to 400 km in width:

        http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2013PA002501/abstract

        Please stop lying.

      • The Isthmus is continental crust, as established by the study, hence no seaway. Shoaling indicates shore. You seem ignorant of geology but I am not.

        Moderator, this commenter has been deliberately offensive toward me in the past, calling me a “crackpot”. Now she says that I am “lying”. I request your attention in this.

      • mpainter, you should also note that you are on moderation for some previous bad behavior. Perhaps a review of your commenting sty;e is in order?

  16. I suppose the point is that “life” will survive any form of climate change that may occur – however, I can’t help but wonder if we would be able to survive all the changes over the last 1.4 billion years. In that sense it is a spurious argument merely to indicate that the climate changes over that time period and then try to say that because of that, everything’s ok. On the other hand the deep Greens don’t appear to care whether humanity survives so I do wonder why they get so upset at Humans potentially causing their own extinction – it’s not as if the planet won’t survive, it’s just that we might not be around to save it!

  17. Was there Milankovitch-type cycles in the distant past. That is the question.

    Nobody expected them to be exactly the same as the recent past but there should still be at least some type of Milankovitch Cycle(s).

    I guess this paper just says that yes they were.

    We couldn’t really go back more than 5 million years with our current understanding before the uncertainties became too large to say anything. A really, really high resolution proxy dataset would be required to attempt an answer at this question. So, now there is one.

    This period at 1.4 billion years ago was thought to be fairly warm (maybe 2C or 3C higher than today) but of course, there was only single-celled organisms at this time so they could have survived wide variations in temps compared to more complex multi-celled plants and animals which evolved later.

  18. This excellent stratigraphy work shows that there is nothing new about the Pleistocene, Milankovich forcing and the mid Pleistocene revolution.

    As I have speculated before here, it could be that periods of glacial-interglacial always characterise transitions out of and into deep global glaciation.

    The shorter precession and obliquity cycles a billion years ago are an added signature of authenticity.

  19. What a ridiculous misrepresentation of the paper’s findings. To anyone who reads the abstract, it should be clear that this paper is dealing with the question of whether Milankovitch cycles, which the evidence points to as the main drivers of natural climate change over the past several million years, were also driving changes in climate before that time. It makes no mention of anthropogenic forcing, because it’s not attempting to analyze what’s happening today. This paper has no bearing on the question of what’s doing the forcing right now.

    • What a ridiculous comment to make. You cannot point to climate change anywhere on this planet. Natural fluctuations are being mischaracterized by alarmists; for example, sea ice extent. Note that Arctic sea ice extent is currently expanding.Pay no attention to the alarmists.

    • Taylor J

      You fail to understand.

      It does not matter if the paper does or does not mention “the question of what’s doing the forcing right now”. This is because people have a responsibility to prove their case when they claim that natural forcings which have existed for at least 1.4 billion years have recently been replaced by other forcings.

      I hope that explanation of the bleedin’ obvious is helpful to you.

      Richard

  20. I would like to post this to all political ….no wait a minute, you can never change stupid, it something to do with the environment

  21. “Fluctuating climate is a hallmark of Earth, and the present greenhouse effect is by far NOT the only force affecting today’s climate. ”

    Just to add my vote here: This is missing a “NOT” isn’t it?

  22. I would like you all to know that what is being discussed here “is climate variation” because the United Nations has told us that “climate change” should only be used for man-made global warming. Isn’t the difference clear to you peasants? /sarc.

  23. “…….and right now we are in the middle of a warming period that has so far lasted 11,000 years.

    Warm period, surely?

    “…orbital forcing from the Milankovitch cycles has been in a cooling phase for millennia, but that cooling trend was reversed in the 20th and 21st centuries due to warming caused by increased anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milankovitch_cycles

  24. So, the furnace is 93 million miles away but we can turn down the thermostat by reducing CO2 emissions? I’m glad that doesn’t work. Ever been in an office, when some people are on a diet (too cold) and others aren’t (too hot)? Have you ever seen the arguments over the room temperature? Now expand that world wide. I’m glad that nobody can change the thermostat.

  25. No further comments on this thread, closed. You can thank the food fight between mpainter and others (most of which were not approved). I don’t have the time anymore for this junk.

Comments are closed.