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Transient Middle Eocene Atmospheric CO2 and Temperature Variations

Science  05 Nov 2010:
Vol. 330, Issue 6005, pp. 819-821
DOI: 10.1126/science.1193654

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Abstract

The long-term warmth of the Eocene (~56 to 34 million years ago) is commonly associated with elevated partial pressure of atmospheric carbon dioxide (pCO2). However, a direct relationship between the two has not been established for short-term climate perturbations. We reconstructed changes in both pCO2 and temperature over an episode of transient global warming called the Middle Eocene Climatic Optimum (MECO; ~40 million years ago). Organic molecular paleothermometry indicates a warming of southwest Pacific sea surface temperatures (SSTs) by 3° to 6°C. Reconstructions of pCO2 indicate a concomitant increase by a factor of 2 to 3. The marked consistency between SST and pCO2 trends during the MECO suggests that elevated pCO2 played a major role in global warming during the MECO.

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