An international team of scientists are studying earth core samples from the Bighorn Mountains to better understand climate change. Traces of natural substances leave hints about ancient climates in the rock.
Will Clyde teaches geology at the University of New Hampshire and leads the Project. He says the Bighorns were created during a period of intense global warming, 56 million years ago. There were even palm trees and crocodiles living in Wyoming. Clyde’s team is investigating natural occurrences that threw off the earth’s carbon cycle, causing the earth’s temperature to spike drastically.
“The worry is that the general warming that we’re causing right now could trigger some kind of carbon cycle feedback that would release even more greenhouse gas than we are currently sort of anticipating based on just our burning of fossil fuels.”
The earth eventually cooled, but not before these hyper-thermal events killed off ocean-dwelling species and forced land animals to migrate.
“Those of us who study earth history would say, we wouldn’t be surprised that the Earth will recover from what we’re doing to it, but the question is whether humans will.”
Clyde hopes this research will help scientists better understand the earth’s carbon cycle and mitigate future hyperthermal events.
The Bighorn cores are at the Breman Core Repository in Germany. The results of the study will be published next year.