How did a global warming of 6 to 8°C affect the planet 56 million years ago

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A study led by Swiss researchers in the Pyrenees has provided information about an episode of global warming 56 million years ago that could have caused significant floods which greatly modified the landscape.  According to researchers,  there would be “lessons to be learned” from their study.  

The study led by a team from the University of Geneva appeared in the journal Scientific Reports in September 2016.  According to their research, there was a dramatic global warming of 5 to 8°C around 56 million years ago.  These changes in temperature during the Paleocene and Eocene periods affected the Earth during a very short period in terms of the geological time scale,  i.e between 10 or 20 thousand years.

During this period the extent of floods was multiplied by 8 to 14 times and even the disappearance of vegetation would have been a daily occurrence. Scientists have analyzed sediments in the Southern Pyrenees using a method, “directly inspired by biology, which studies the response of cells to external stimuli,” according to Sébastien Castelltort.  The principal researcher also added that, “water systems, such as rivers courses, have reacted to an external signal which is in this case global warming.

According to this study, palm trees would have been found on the North pole during this period. What’s more, certain species of marine plankton which are present in tropical waters today would have colonized the oceans! In some places surface water temperatures increased to almost 36 degrees, a lethal temperature for many marine animals. According to scientists, intense volcanic activity as well as the melting of methane hydrates would have contributed to a significant greenhouse effect.

By studying sediments on the southern slopes of the Pyrenees, researchers have managed to conclude that the landscape was completely transformed during this period of global warming.  In general, this study has allowed scientists to consider that predictions regarding the current global warming crisis could be wrong and in fact, the risks could be more severe that previously expected!

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