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There is no simple global thermostat.

Serious global climate change is nothing new; in fact, it is quite ancient. One University of Missouri-Columbia researcher has reviewed the Earth's temperature fluctuations from the past 70,000,000 years to predict future variations. His findings show that regional patterns are not constant, and that means changes caused by modern-day global warming will not occur across the board. Some areas will be hit harder than others.

"It matters what happens in your backyard," says Ken MacLeod, assistant professor of geological sciences. "If you think about the way climate works in a 10-year span, a given year is not cooler or hotter everywhere. Yet, that is the perception of how global warming will progress. In our research, we've found regional patterns that persisted for millions of years."

A well-documented interval of global cooling took place 70,000,000 years ago, dropping temperatures across the Earth by 10[degrees]F. MacLeod and his team studied rocks in the North Atlantic and discovered that, while the Earth was cooling elsewhere, the ocean was getting warmer.

"This is not just a hot Fourth of July," MacLeod notes. "This warming in the North Atlantic occurred over a 3,000,000-year interval."

MacLeod reveals that the scale of this ancient climate change is comparable to predictions for the next 50 years, except the coming decades should see average warming instead of cooling. In addition to calls for higher temperatures, predictions include a rising sea level and a greater size and frequency of storms.

"The changes to the atmosphere caused by humans over the past 150 years are as large as the changes that occurred naturally over the past 35,000,000 years," MacLeod contends. "You have to look back that far to find carbon dioxide levels at what we expect them to be in the next 50 years."

These findings mean that, in order to obtain the average global warming that is predicted, regional variances will make some places cooler and others warmer than expected. Those especially warm areas will surfer extreme changes that could be disastrous. MacLeod points out that, until the global cooling that began about 70,000,000 years ago, the Earth had been extremely warm for 25,000,000 years.

"There were no glaciers; crocodilians lived in the high Arctic; and palm trees grew in Canada ... that kind of warm," MacLeod emphasizes.
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Title Annotation:Your Life
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2005
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