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CO2 and temperature: a pas de deux.

[CO.sub.2[ and temperature: A pas de deux

In a finding that may have ominous implications for greenhouse warning forecasts, scientists report that carbon dioxide levels and equatorial temperatures perform a close dance, moving in tandem to an as-yet-unknown rhythm.

J. Brad Marston from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., and his colleagues at the New York City-based Environmental Defense Fund compared a 30-year record of carbon dioxide concentrations to a record of average monthly temperatures for different regions of the globe. They found a close statistical relationship between the carbon dioxide measurements and equatorial temperatures: The two tended to rise and fall together, with changes in the greenhouse gas lagging several months behind the fluctuations in equatorial sea temperatures, the researchers report in the Feb. 14 NATURE. This suggests that the temperature changes cause the short-term variations in carbon dioxide, or that both respond to some other meteorological force, Marston says.

The findings provide empirical evidence for an idea raised long ago: That rising temperatures will cause the land surface or ocean to release stored carbon dioxide -- an effect that tends to push temperatures even higher. Scientiests call this kind of relationship a positive feedback. The feedback studied by Marston's group works over relatively short periods, each lasting a few years. He says it is important to determine whether the same feedback also operates over several decades. If so, that would raise the possibility that increasing temperatures will cause a massive surge in carbon dioxide levels, driving temperatures to even higher levels than those currently predicted by climate models.
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Title Annotation:atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and equatorial temperatures
Publication:Science News
Date:Mar 9, 1991
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