3/8/2013 9:23:05 PM

New Study: Unprecedented, Rapid Climate Warming

A new study published in Science shows that the Earth's climate is warming at a rapid pace, with global temperatures now hotter than anything seen in at least 4,000 years. What's more, the speed of the change is unprecedented within the charted geological record and comes at a time when the planet should be cooling, not warming, if natural factors were still controlling the climate.

"What we found is that temperatures increased in the last hundred years as much as they had cooled in the last six or seven thousand," lead author Shaun Marcott of Oregon State University told Mother Jones. "In other words, the rate of change is much greater than anything we've seen in the whole Holocene," referring to the current geologic time period, which began around 11,500 years ago.

If the pace continues, the rapid warming probably won't give wildlife time to adapt, threatening the survival of many species and placing strains on human agriculture and other systems.

The study goes back 11,300 years, farther in time than ever before. That's 9,000 years more than the time period covered in the famous Hockey Stick graph by climate scientist Michael E. Mann. The new study not only confirms the validity of that graph, but shows how swiftly the changes are taking place.

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