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Volcanic Warming Eyed in 'Great Dying'

michael posted more than 9 years ago | from the learning-from-history,-hopefully dept.

Science 353

gollum123 writes "AP writes on an article in the journal Science where an ancient version of global warming may have been to blame for the greatest mass extinction in Earth's history. 'In an event known as the "Great Dying," some 250 million years ago, 90 percent of all marine life and nearly three-quarters of land-based plants and animals went extinct. Researchers think the answer is Massive volcanic flows in what is now Siberia, and believe the extinctions were caused by global warming and oxygen deprivation over long periods of time."

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GNAA BEGINS SALE OF DECAPITATION INSURANCE (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11431363)

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Re:GNAA BEGINS SALE OF DECAPITATION INSURANCE (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11431405)

that is honestly some of the funniest shit i've ever had the pleasure of reading.

ancient global warming (0, Troll)

Mz6 (741941) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431371)

...yet somehow they'll find a way to blame it all on George W Bush.

Re:ancient global warming (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11431452)

Difference there is that Bush can help do something about global warming, but is too content keeping the petrol companies satisfied (and his pocket lined) to care about the bigger implications and the impact on the rest of the world. For a president who claims he has global interests at heart, it seems to be a particularly limited spread of interests.

Ancient global warming was obviously unavoidable.

Another troll (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11431549)

' Difference there is that Bush can help do something about global warming '

You are just another troll unless you are joking.

Re:ancient global warming (0, Troll)

jav1231 (539129) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431627)

Uh..and what could any president have done about global warming 250 million years ago? Seriously! If Kerry had been president then could it have been stopped? No. If the Kyoto Accord had been signed, coculd it have been stopped? No. With so much evidence pointing to global warming being a natural phenomenon, the Kyoto Treaty is looking more like a joke.

Re:ancient global warming (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11431468)

And luckily this will be the time then when people like you remind us that the world is only 4000 years old.

Re:ancient global warming (2, Insightful)

myom (642275) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431583)

Then why do people like you care about news like this, when you claim the world is only a few thousand years old? You have to decide what to believe in: creationist or scientific lore.

In either way, assuming you are a supporter of the latter theory you should also know that global warming can have several different reasons.

The global warming that has happened since the widespread introduction of the car and petroleum products in the energy industry, as well as industrialised cattle farming, is real, in a very short time span. This is a thing we can do something about, but can't due to greed.

The global warming from natural reasons work on a much longer time span. This, on the other hand, is something we can't do anything about, and here GWB sure can't be blamed.

Just because the global temperature varies in a very long time span of thousands of years does not mean that the man-made environmental catastrophy that is happening is not real.

No Evidence ; ) (2, Insightful)

essreenim (647659) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431727)

...yet somehow they'll find a way to blame it all on George W Bush.

I filtered through gollum123's article submission to find any political bias .. he's clean. Although I still believe that global warming is a big problem that we must do something about,. I cannot deny that nature itself is as big a problem: All we can do is work on the stuff we can control. We cant control earthquakes, tsunamis from those, hurricanes etc.. we need to keep focussing on prediction and reducing emmisions. If we get taken out because the sun suddenly goes supernova (which shuoldnt happen) and blows the f*$@ out of the whole solar system, we can live with that ... or if an indistructible massive depleted uranium asteroid slams into the earth

By the way, I think we should be spending more money on probes like ESA's Rosetta that studies th sun than on Huygens which merely tells us about how we could kill ourselves off with freexing cold ethane rain just in case we cant kill ourselves off on this world ...

Re:No Evidence ; ) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11431785)

"If we get taken out because the sun suddenly goes supernova (which shuoldnt happen) and blows the f*$@ out of the whole solar system, we can live with that ..."

Actually, probably not.

I knew it... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11431374)

I should have never given Dick Cheney that time machine. I was not aware of the mischief he was capable of.

Re:I knew it... (3, Funny)

mahdi13 (660205) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431480)

I should have never given Dick Cheney that time machine. I was not aware of the mischief he was capable of.
As long as he doesn't go off the path and step on a butterfly, things shouldn't get much worse...

Re: I knew it... (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431562)


> > I should have never given Dick Cheney that time machine. I was not aware of the mischief he was capable of.

> As long as he doesn't go off the path and step on a butterfly, things shouldn't get much worse...

Unfortunately, he couldn't resist the temptation to cut down a tree, and it fell on a butterfly.

Uhm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11431377)

Less oxygen = more nitrogen. Boy, are we going to have fun!

Re:Uhm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11431471)

Not Quite.

Less O2 = More CO2

Please breath deeply.

Money and Power (0, Flamebait)

b-baggins (610215) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431380)

There's no grant money or political power to be gained in saying dinosaurs died from a meteor strike.

However, if you can say they all died from global warming and...oh, NO!!! the evil Americans are doing the same thing to the planet right NOW!!! Well,then, you can get some money and influence.

I can do it (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11431437)

' There's no grant money or political power to be gained in saying dinosaurs died from a meteor strike '

Yes there is. Let's try "This proves that Dumbya has the wrong priorities! He is wasting money on tax cuts for the rich that is better spent on defending us from meteor strikes!

Re:Money and Power (5, Informative)

sam_handelman (519767) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431484)

The dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago, you twit.

We're talking about the Permian Extinction - which, by the way, no-one actually calls the "Great Dying".

I could tell y'all about it but it would be a duplication of effort. Do yourself a favor and read something:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/education/darwin/exfiles/perm ian.htm [bbc.co.uk]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permian_extinction [wikipedia.org]

[OT] Your .sig (3, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431516)


> Luck favors the bold. - Virgil

> Luck favors the well prepared. - Pasteur

Luck favors the lucky.

Re:[OT] Your .sig (0)

Atrax (249401) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431563)

Luck be a Lady toniiiiiiiiiiiiiiight!

Thank you very much, I'm here every evening between seven and nine

Re:[OT] Your .sig (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11431643)

Luck is the residue of design -- Branch Rickey

Re:Money and Power (2, Funny)

Baramin (847271) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431527)

Article doesn't blame Americans for anything... You know other countries have factories, oil, pollution, etc ?

Well, you know there are other countries at least ?

Re:Money and Power (1)

ksdd (634242) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431611)

Rats! Now that means all the money and power that went into the secret plans for constructing two cool-looking space shuttles and recruiting oil drillers to plant a nuke in an approaching asteroid will have to be scrapped in favor of something else. Damn you, scientists!

More like a surfeit of facts (3, Interesting)

Engineer-Poet (795260) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431690)

The picture is quite a bit more complicated than that: when science provides so many facts (so much "truth"), it appears that human nature's "confirmation bias" leads people to entrench their positions based on the selection of those facts which support what they want. (You might notice the absence of such entrenched interests regarding asteroid strikes.)

I suggest you read the papers here [cspo.org] and here [cspo.org] before continuing. Actually, I suggest that EVERYONE ON SLASHDOT read those papers; they will open your eyes.

Re:Money and Power (1)

Bad D.N.A. (753582) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431743)

"no grant money... meteor strike" ...

You dont think so? It was only a few weeks ago
that we were all in a tizzy about the potential
astroid strike in 2030 or whenever it was. We
have landed a spacecraft on a astroid, we flying
to a commet right now. No money in a meteor
strike... We fund various groups of people
to search the skys for these things and document
them. O yea, there is money in those big rocks.

16% oxygen? (1, Insightful)

chris09876 (643289) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431397)

When people climb tall mountains, they have to deal with lower oxygen. (Some people bring oxygen with them, but some don't). ...16% oxygen in the atmosphere doesn't sound like it would kill all those people... I would have thought people/dinosaurs/creaturse would have learned to just live with the lower oxygen levels by subconsciously taking more breaths... (but I'm not a biology person)

Re:16% oxygen? (0)

the_2nd_coming (444906) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431436)

umm... 250 MILLION years ago dork.... the flintstones were not accurate, human did not live with dinosaurs.

and besides tat... if there was more Oxygen prior to this even, then the animals were adapted to an Oxygen rich environment. when that dropped off, so did the animals.

Re:16% oxygen? (3, Insightful)

garcia (6573) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431439)

When people climb tall mountains, they have to deal with lower oxygen. (Some people bring oxygen with them, but some don't). ...16% oxygen in the atmosphere doesn't sound like it would kill all those people...

It might not kill people who are trained to deal with the differences in the levels. For the elderly, for those that have weakened immune systems, and for young children these changes might have consequences.

People train at altitude for months to get their bodies prepared for thin air. I have a feeling that dinosaurs might not have had the chance (or possibly even the evolutionary ability) to make those changes over a short period of time.

Re:16% oxygen? (1)

chris09876 (643289) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431510)

That's a good point about people needing to train at lower oxygen levels. ...but my impression from the article is that the oxygen rate didn't decrease in a day, but happened over a couple million years as a result of the global warming

Re:16% oxygen? (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431526)

but my impression from the article is that the oxygen rate didn't decrease in a day, but happened over a couple million years as a result of the global warming

As I said they might have lacked the ability to adapt to the changes over that time frame.

Humans could deal with 10% (5, Interesting)

Engineer-Poet (795260) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431795)

There are human populations living at altitudes where the partial pressure of oxygen is about half that at sea level (Peru [uic.edu] , Tibet [case.edu] ). Even more interesting, the two populations seem to have two different adaptations to the altitude and there may be another adaptation original to Ethiopia [cwru.edu] . I doubt that we'd have any difficulty engineering ourselves with the physiological changes required to handle such conditions even if they occurred over the next century.

The rest of the ecosystem would probably not be so flexible.

Re:16% oxygen? (1, Informative)

Headw1nd (829599) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431639)

You didn't read the article carefully, the great dying happened before the dinosaurs. The researchers are suggesting that the dinosaurs might have come to power specifically because they were adapted to cope with the lower oxygen levels.

Re:16% oxygen? (2, Informative)

garcia (6573) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431709)

I read the article "carefully" but I don't agree with their theory on the subject:

"Some of us have been toying with the idea that dinosaurs evolved to be a low-oxygen adaptation," resulting from this era, Ward said. "We know birds can live at much lower oxygen concentrations than we do, and we and think there were similar lung adaptations in dinosaurs."

Yeah, birds can live at lower oxygen levels because they fly at altitude on a regular basis. They also come down to the ground for various reasons. That way they are cross-training at different altitudes and thus able to adapt to varying conditions.

As far as I am aware MOST dinosaurs did not have the ability to fly. And supposedly if you weren't near sea-level you weren't going to live. So, the dinosaurs were not cross-training at differing altitudes and probably did not gain the same sort of breathing abilities that birds did.

I think it was quite a leap for the scientists in this article to make. Then again IANAS.

Re:16% oxygen? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11431826)

That's the biggest problem with non-testable descriptive science; it suffers from a lot of imaginative reconstruction. People will come up with any number of ideas about what may or may not have been possible, substantiate it basically using contemporary data and attempt to fit it with hypothetical models based upon reconstruction using contemporary data collected from previous eras. But that will invariably hinge upon any number of assumptions regarding what actually transpired and the boundaries of what is or is not likely.

That's not really an evolutionary ability is it? (1)

Mustang Matt (133426) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431815)

If I train in a low oxygen environment my body adapts or is custom to the low amount of oxygen. I'm not really undergoing any evolutionary changes am I?

Re:16% oxygen? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11431490)

N.B., The perentage of oxygen in the atmosphere doesn't change with altitude; the barometric pressure does, which reduces the amount of oxygen you can get per breath.

Re:16% oxygen? (2, Informative)

Atrax (249401) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431798)

OK. yeah. sort of right. for a given value of right.

It's the equivalent of teaching newtonian gravity at high school so that later you can learn einsteinian gravity at university, and then demolish the whole thing in your PhD thesis.

the fringes of the atmosphere are thinner in oxygen than the lower reaches. of course for practical purposes (Everest/Chomolungma) there's less difference in percentage than higher up, and pressure is the overriding factor.

OK, OK, I'm Anal Retentive. sue me.

Re:16% oxygen? (1)

GoofyBoy (44399) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431524)

Those people are just going up for a short period of time. Try doing your day to day things holding your breath 80% of the time. You are not going to die from the lack of oxygen but you wouldn't be effective.

Re:16% oxygen? (1)

rmayes100 (521535) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431553)

I'm guessing a 16% drop in the earths oxygen levels represents a massive loss in plant life on the earth, so what are we animals supposed to eat while we're taking more breaths.

Re:16% oxygen? (1)

gowen (141411) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431689)

Some people bring oxygen with them, but some don't
And all of them descend the mountain again within a few days.

There is a reason why heights above 7500m is called "The Death Zone". Every moment you stay with those reduced, you're closer to being dead. The very best, even among the Sherpa population, can't last more than a few weeks, at most.

Re:16% oxygen? (1)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431739)

Lower Oxygen levels may not kill you, but higher Carbon Dioxide certainly can. The reason has to do with how lungs function. When you breathe, the partial pressure of Oxygen in your blood is lower than that in the atmosphere. Hence, Oxygen flows from the air you breathe into your blood. The reverse is true for Carbon Dioxide. It flows from the blood to the air because the air has a lower partial pressure of CO2 than the CO2 in the blood. If the CO2 content in the air is too high, you can't get rid of the CO2 in your blood. Eventually, all of your hemoglobin molecules are useless.

Re:16% oxygen? (1)

EvilTwinSkippy (112490) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431744)

Actually no. Your metabolism slows down to the point that you can't maintain body temperature. While lack of oxygen doesn't help with decision making, most people die of the cold WAY before oxygen debt kicks in at altitude. (The blood of people who live at altitude actually develops a high concentration of hemoglobin to compensate, but there are upward limits of what this adapation can adjust for.)

The other thing to remember is that tweaking the partial pressure of oxygen effects how well oxygen is absorbed through the cell walls in the lung. Breathing 20% O2 at 4/5 STP is not the same as breathing 16% O2 at STP.

I'm not a biologist either, but I do Scuba dive, and my training went in-depth into how the body handles gasses at different pressures.

Re:16% oxygen? (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431825)

This theory is a few months old, I heard about it at the Geological shindig in Denver in the fall of '04.

Altitudinal Compression Hypothesis (ACH)
Carboniferous - 30% O2
Triassic - 12% O2
Loss of 60% habitable area for terrestrials

Evidence of Global superanoxia comes from
Black mudstones
Thin coal beds

At the same time you have the Siberian Traps volcanic eruptions.

Proves once again (1, Informative)

hsmith (818216) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431402)

No one can agree on anything in the science field when it comes to this planet. Earth is more complex than anyone can comprehend or understand, it will outlast humans by a long shot, nothing we will do will kill it.

Re:Proves once again (1)

PNutts (199112) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431462)

We may not be able to kill the Earth, but we can change it enough so that it kills us.

Exactly (3, Insightful)

lbmouse (473316) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431705)

"The planet has been through a lot worse than us. Been through all kinds of things worse than us. Been through earthquakes, volcanoes, plate tectonics, continental drift, solar flares, sun spots, magnetic storms, the magnetic reversal of the poles...hundreds of thousands of years of bombardment by comets and asteroids and meteors, worlwide floods, tidal waves, worldwide fires, erosion, cosmic rays, recurring ice ages...And we think some plastic bags, and some aluminum cans are going to make a difference? The planet...the planet...the planet isn't going anywhere people... we are!" ~ George Carlin

Re:Proves once again (2, Insightful)

doublem (118724) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431729)

We learned to talk less than 100,000 years ago.

We've only been recording and passing down history for about 6,000 years. There may have been some damn mighty civilizations before then, but all knowledge of them is lost. (No Atlantis comments from the peanut gallery, it was a made up country Plato concocted for use in one of his books, and if he'd suspected people would have taken it seriously, he probably would have killed himself in despair)

We've already managed to drive a number of species to extinction, and filled the planet with toxins that are killing us off by various means, cancer among them.

A lot of people think we're likely to make the planet uninhabitable for our species withing a few generations.

Oh well. Whatever we do, we can't sterilize the planet. So long as there's enough bacteria and food left to keep going, it will evolve. We many not even be the first sentient species to evolve on this planet. There may have been something before us that polluted the world to the point where they died off. Our oil fields may very well be their landfills.

Re:Proves once again (1)

Illserve (56215) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431834)

"We many not even be the first sentient species to evolve on this planet. There may have been something before us that polluted the world to the point where they died off. Our oil fields may very well be their landfills."

I uh, think we would have figured that one out.

Christ we've found fossils of *flesh* from x million years ago, you think we couldn't find evidence of buildings from a society developed enough to pollute itself out of existence?

It's a wonderful idea, but no.

Teh (5, Insightful)

JPelorat (5320) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431418)

From the learning-from-history dept??

WTF are we supposed to learn from this, "Don't set the fucking volcanos off"?

If only the US had signed the Krakatoa-Pompeii Treaty, we wouldn't be getting fucked to death by these massive volcanic flows!!

Troll? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11431736)

The only troll was the i-wanna-be-clever-dept tagline to the article.

Up yours, Michael. You pathetic little pinched loaf.

All this time (4, Funny)

Fr05t (69968) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431425)

"90 percent of all marine life and nearly three-quarters of land-based plants and animals went extinct"

And all this time I thought it was nine-tenths of all marine life, and 75% of land-based life that went extinct.

Re:All this time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11431704)

Well, we know you Harvard girls have trouble with math.

More like the "Great Baking" (3, Funny)

GillBates0 (664202) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431431)

The good part is that once we get the earth sufficiently heated up, we won't have to cook anymore!

Mmmm baked vegetable and meat medley.

The sad part is that we'll be part of the main course....I'll have Geek au gratin please with a side of elephant home fries.

Re:More like the "Great Baking" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11431509)

And the bad part is that the earth is continuing to COOL down.

Global warming is something that happens on the surface of the earth. Once the Earth really cools down, we will be a 'dead' planet. It won't matter. You will already be dead.

Yesterday we had the great freeze... (5, Interesting)

bwcarty (660606) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431460)

now we have the great dying.

This bit o' work by Robert Frost seems appropriate now:

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice

Slashdot...News for Nerds. Stuff about death.

Re:Yesterday we had the great freeze... (1)

EvilTwinSkippy (112490) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431651)

Frankly, if the big day comes in my lifetime, I just hope for enough time to relax and enjoy a good beer while I heckle the morans trying to evacuate the city by car.

"mini" Ice Age (1, Informative)

georgep77 (97111) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431467)

I liked it better in the 70's when all of "pop" science was preaching that we were headed for a mini ice age. This global warming "religeon" is just a little much; espicially since there seems to be so much politic-ing involved.

ho hum
_GP_

Those were not real scientists (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11431498)

' liked it better in the 70's when all of "pop" science was preaching that we were headed for a mini ice age '

The pop scientists today preaching phoney "global warming" theories say that those ice-age guys were not "real scientists". The cycle will likely come around again by 2020, with new pop scientists preaching global cooling, blaming Republicans, and calling the global warming guys of the past fakes.

Re:"mini" Ice Age (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11431655)

I liked it better in the 70's when all of "pop" science was preaching that we were headed for a mini ice age. This global warming "religeon" is just a little much; espicially since there seems to be so much politic-ing involved.

That's because in the 70s we were experiencing large amounts of snow (my parents even flew to Detriot and drove back with a truck and plow to combat the deep snow).

Then in the 80s the snow backed off and we were blessed with mild winters.

Then the early 90s came and again the snow was again coming down in buckets.

Then in the late 90s and into today we have seen the snow again begin to back off...

See a pattern? I do. At least over a short period of time which means absolutely zip. Just like the grant science of recent years. It means nothing.

The Earth will continue to have its patterns of weather conditions (accelerated by us or not) regardless of what we do to "fix it".

Just let it happen. Yeah, we will lose coastlines, some inland areas, and possibly billions of lives. It happens. It has happened with disease, war, etc, over millions of years and it will continue.

Stop trying to fucking fix everything with politically charged and funded science.

Re:"mini" Ice Age (1)

Pentagram (40862) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431668)

Yeah, it's such a shame when scientists change their theories when new facts come along. Much better to hold to a view and then stick to it, regardless of later facts.

Not that the article has the slightest thing to do with your comment.

Re:"mini" Ice Age (1)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431695)

Then you will also excuse me if I don't jump up and down whenever the theories change. For more interesting reading, check out books on child rearing 60 years ago. Then read books 30 years ago on child rearing. Then read today's books on child rearing. You will find that the modern school of thought reflects the old school more than the 30 year ago school.

Newsweek April 28, 1975: The Cooling World (5, Informative)

glrotate (300695) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431752)

here are ominous signs that the Earth's weather patterns have begun to change dramatically and that these changes may portend a drastic decline in food production- with serious political implications for just about every nation on Earth. The drop in food output could begin quite soon, perhaps only 10 years from now. The regions destined to feel its impact are the great wheat-producing lands of Canada and the U.S.S.R. in the North, along with a number of marginally self-sufficient tropical areas - parts of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indochina and Indonesia - where the growing season is dependent upon the rains brought by the monsoon.

The evidence in support of these predictions has now begun to accumulate so massively that meteorologists are hard-pressed to keep up with it. In England, farmers have seen their growing season decline by about two weeks since 1950, with a resultant overall loss in grain production estimated at up to 100,000 tons annually. During the same time, the average temperature around the equator has risen by a fraction of a degree - a fraction that in some areas can mean drought and desolation. Last April, in the most devastating outbreak of tornadoes ever recorded, 148 twisters killed more than 300 people and caused half a billion dollars' worth of damage in 13 U.S. states.

To scientists, these seemingly disparate incidents represent the advance signs of fundamental changes in the world's weather. Meteorologists disagree about the cause and extent of the trend, as well as over its specific impact on local weather conditions. But they are almost unanimous in the view that the trend will reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century. If the climatic change is as profound as some of the pessimists fear, the resulting famines could be catastrophic. "A major climatic change would force economic and social adjustments on a worldwide scale," warns a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences, "because the global patterns of food production and population that have evolved are implicitly dependent on the climate of the present century."

A survey completed last year by Dr. Murray Mitchell of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reveals a drop of half a degree in average ground temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere between 1945 and 1968. According to George Kukla of Columbia University, satellite photos indicated a sudden, large increase in Northern Hemisphere snow cover in the winter of 1971-72. And a study released last month by two NOAA scientists notes that the amount of sunshine reaching the ground in the continental U.S. diminished by 1.3% between 1964 and 1972.

To the layman, the relatively small changes in temperature and sunshine can be highly misleading. Reid Bryson of the University of Wisconsin points out that the Earth's average temperature during the great Ice Ages was only about seven degrees lower than during its warmest eras - and that the present decline has taken the planet about a sixth of the way toward the Ice Age average. Others regard the cooling as a reversion to the "little ice age" conditions that brought bitter winters to much of Europe and northern America between 1600 and 1900 - years when the Thames used to freeze so solidly that Londoners roasted oxen on the ice and when iceboats sailed the Hudson River almost as far south as New York City.

Just what causes the onset of major and minor ice ages remains a mystery. "Our knowledge of the mechanisms of climatic change is at least as fragmentary as our data," concedes the National Academy of Sciences report. "Not only are the basic scientific questions largely unanswered, but in many cases we do not yet know enough to pose the key questions."

Meteorologists think that they can forecast the short-term results of the return to the norm of the last century. They begin by noting the slight drop in overall temperature that produces large numbers of pressure centers in the upper atmosphere. These break up the smooth flow of westerly winds over temperate areas. The stagnant air produced in this way causes an increase in extremes of local weather such as droughts, floods, extended dry spells, long freezes, delayed monsoons and even local temperature increases - all of which have a direct impact on food supplies.

"The world's food-producing system," warns Dr. James D. McQuigg of NOAA's Center for Climatic and Environmental Assessment, "is much more sensitive to the weather variable than it was even five years ago." Furthermore, the growth of world population and creation of new national boundaries make it impossible for starving peoples to migrate from their devastated fields, as they did during past famines.

Climatologists are pessimistic that political leaders will take any positive action to compensate for the climatic change, or even to allay its effects. They concede that some of the more spectacular solutions proposed, such as melting the Arctic ice cap by covering it with black soot or diverting arctic rivers, might create problems far greater than those they solve. But the scientists see few signs that government leaders anywhere are even prepared to take the simple measures of stockpiling food or of introducing the variables of climatic uncertainty into economic projections of future food supplies. The longer the planners delay, the more difficult will they find it to cope with climatic change once the results become grim reality.

Re:"mini" Ice Age (1)

The Wannabe King (745989) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431777)

In the 70's, very few scientists supported the fear of a new ice age. Nowadays, a large majority of them believe that human behaviour causes global warming. The situation is not comparable to the 70's and we have a lot more reason to worry.

Yes, but (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11431487)

It is unfortunate that these motherfuckingly horrendous creatures [snopes.com] got to survive even with such a high percentage of marine life being wiped out. Why do the ugly motherfuckers always seem to survive? And does the reason also have something to do with michael [slashdot.org] surviving as an editor despite the fact that 90 % of Slashdot users hate him?

Ok, I RTFM... (4, Interesting)

His name cannot be s (16831) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431507)

From the article:
Studying a 1,000-foot thick section of exposed sediment, Ward's team found evidence of a gradual extinction over about 10 million years followed by a sharp increase in extinction rate that lasted another 5 million years.

Huh?

A Gradual extinction over 10 million years? Yeah, That's gradual all right.

The best part is the "sharp" increase over five million more years. So what he's saying is that a hell of lot of stuff died over 15 million years? Wowfuck.

If we've got 10 to 15 million years of fossil fuel to burn, I say screw it.

"Dear? you can turn up the heat now"

feh.

Re:Ok, I RTFM... (4, Insightful)

GoofyBoy (44399) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431578)

Um ... these are in geological terms.

30 miles/hour is fast or slow depending on what sort of transportation you are talking about (walking vs. car vs. jet plane). 10 million is sharp vs 1100 million.

Re:Ok, I RTFM... (1)

dragons_flight (515217) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431830)

At present, the more common position is that the majority of the extinctions occured during less than 1 million years. So by contrast, Ward's position is quite slow.

Actually a number of scientists are arguing for two short pulses of extinction seperated by approximately 10 million years, with the second one being especially severe. So that would be consistent with Ward's time frame though not with his view of it being one extended event.

Full Story (1, Informative)

sandstorming (850026) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431513)

FROM: http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=62 4&ncid=753&e=1&u=/ap/20050121/ap_on_sc/great_dying ----- WASHINGTON - An ancient version of global warming may have been to blame for the greatest mass extinction in Earth's history. In an event known as the "Great Dying," some 250 million years ago, 90 percent of all marine life and nearly three-quarters of land-based plants and animals went extinct. Scientists have long debated the cause of this calamity -- which occurred before the era of dinosaurs -- with possibilities including such disasters as meteor impacts. Researchers led by Peter Ward of the University of Washington now think the answer is global warming caused by volcanic activity. Their findings are reported in Thursday's online edition of the journal Science. They studied the Karoo Basin of South Africa, using chemical, biological and other evidence to relate layers of sediment there to similar layers in China that previous research has tied to the marine extinction at the same period. Studying a 1,000-foot thick section of exposed sediment, Ward's team found evidence of a gradual extinction over about 10 million years followed by a sharp increase in extinction rate that lasted another 5 million years. Ward's team believes the extinctions were caused by global warming and oxygen deprivation over long periods of time. Massive volcanic flows in what is now Siberia brought on the warming while, at the same time, geologic action caused global sea levels to drop, Ward explained in a telephone interview. "Once you expose a huge amount of underwater sediment to the atmosphere, two very bad things happen -- a huge amount of carbon in the sediments is released and also methane. Once (methane) hits the atmosphere it's the most efficient greenhouse gas on the planet," he said. That provided a one-two punch of warming and a decline in oxygen levels, he said. "Some of us have been toying with the idea that dinosaurs evolved to be a low-oxygen adaptation," resulting from this era, Ward said. "We know birds can live at much lower oxygen concentrations than we do, and we and think there were similar lung adaptations in dinosaurs." Currently the atmosphere consists of about 21 percent oxygen, but the addition of gases at that time could have lowered levels to 16 percent or less, Ward said. "If you didn't live on the sea level you didn't live," he commented, reflecting the fact that oxygen concentrations decline with altitude. The result would have been to eliminate half the living space on the planet, said Ward. The more recent mass extinction that killed the dinosaurs -- 65 million years ago -- has been linked to an impact by a large asteroid or comet that struck in an area off the coast of what is now Mexico and left a distinctive layer of dust worldwide. Some researchers have argued that the Great Dying might also have resulted from such an impact, but Ward's team said it could find no evidence for such an event. That doesn't mean there wasn't one, argues Luann Becker of the University of California at Santa Barbara, commenting that "the absence of evidence isn't evidence for absence." Becker, who was not part of Ward's research team, said "they did a nice job of presenting the paleontological data and the stratigraphy, which seem to show some indication of an evolutionary change going on for a prolonged period of time." However, she added, she doesn't believe that addresses the subject of cause and effect. "I think that this is an ongoing discussion," said Becker, who previously reported on a crater off the northwest coast of Australia that shows evidence of a large meteor impact at about the time of the early extinction. Ward's research was funded by the NASA (news - web sites) Astrobiology Institute, the National Science Foundation (news - web sites) and the National Research Foundation of South Africa. ___ On the Net: Science: http://www.sciencemag.org

Vulcanism (4, Informative)

Atrax (249401) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431519)

It's certainly not the first time Vulcanism* has been implicated in a mass extinction - the Deccan Traps [nodak.edu] , for instance, have been implicated in the KT event that is thought to have wiped out the dinosaurs 65 Million Years ago. There's even a school of thought that says the Chicxulub [arizona.edu] event may have triggered a major convulsion in the Traps - double jeopardy, if you will.

Except that the earth is only about 4000 years old and fossils were put there to test our faith, right?

* I nearly typed 'vulvanism', but that's a different story.

Re:Vulcanism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11431816)

Vulcanism?

Vulcans would NEVER kill dinosarus, it'd be illogical!

last time and next time (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11431521)

Last time, it was caused by volcanos.

Next time, it'll be caused by Americans.

Re:last time and next time (-1, Offtopic)

jav1231 (539129) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431693)

OT from parent: Ya know. Everyone bitches about Americans but they keep coming over here and visiting Disney World. OH! And they sure cash those checks we send over to help them. The truth is, if our economy collapsed, the world economy would collapse. If we stopped buying goods from other countries, they would go into recession. OH but we're so evil. Why? Because we shun socialism? That is a GOOD thing. Hear me, Euro-idiot-Socialists? We prefer freedom. Don't like it? Don't buy American and above all don't come here on "holiday!"

Re:last time and next time (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11431774)

Right.... Freedom...
Tell me: how many people are jailed for doing drugs? Doesn't sound like freedom to me.

It wasn't volcanic warming . . . (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11431531)

it was the exhaust from all the cars that the dinosaurs were driving around!

Me kill you long time! (1)

Dougie Cool (848942) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431533)

Ward's team found evidence of a gradual extinction over about 10 million years followed by a sharp increase in extinction rate that lasted another 5 million years.

Over ten million years, you'd have to be a pretty hardy life form to not go extinct or evolve to adapt, surely? I mean, if mankind is still on this planet in ten million years, or even five million years, or even when Bush is out of office, I'll eat my hat. Apart from I'd be dead.

And can we stop talking about "heading for an ice age" when we've not finished the one we've got, yet? Thank you!

woot (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11431537)

so maybe global warming is natural, like some unpopular scientists have been saying all along! if it doesnt blame humans, the theory isn't valid.

Methane =/ CO2. (1)

GodsMadClown (180543) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431576)

With a B.S in Earth Science, I know a little about climate change due to increased CO2 concentrations. Let nobody say otherwise, I am very concerned about the effects of climate change. I drive a Toyota Echo, keep my heat at 66, and recycle my aluminum. Let the analogy busting begin...

Mthant =/CO2. Methane is a much more efficient greenhouse gas, and (in the presence of O2) has a much shorter residence time in the atmosphere. Residence times for CO2 are in the hundreds of years. Residence times for methane are below 10 years.

Re:Methane =/ CO2. (1)

GoofyBoy (44399) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431812)

>With a B.S in Earth Science, I know a little about climate change due to increased CO2 concentrations.

A B.S. in something makes you qualified to "know" something?

What about all the Masters, Doctorates and Post-Doctorates that disagree with you?

dinosaurs with cars (2, Funny)

mzwaterski (802371) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431585)

Did dinosaurs drive cars and use cans of aerosal hair spray? How did global warming occur if it wasn't their fault? Must have been due to methane gas release (flatulence sp?).

It certainly couldn't have been caused by nature...

Re:dinosaurs with cars (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11431741)

You laugh. A friend of mine has a daughter who did her PhD thesis on the effects of termite flatulence on the ozone layer. Junk science at its best.

high C02 not bad if slow (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431614)

The Earth may have had 10%s of CO2 until photosynthesis was underway and 1%s into the era of the dinosaurs (its .01%s now). This is determined from paleosoil chemistry and rock types. Its probably not too bad if it takes hundreds of thousands or millions of years to reach these levels. Life can adapt easily. Its a different case if only a few centuries or generations and much harder to adapt.

Environmentalaity (1)

hcob$ (766699) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431625)

I have the utmost respect for people who do their best to improve the world around them, but lets face it, good intentions don't always amount to good effects. I think this is might be an attempt to re-integrate "global warming" into the world conciousness. There was, as the article stated, no cause-effect relationship. It was a large supposition that this activity generated a "greenhouse" effect that killed off everything. So lets spend money researching how the environment works before we go yelling how it ends.....

scientists change their minds every fiftee minutes (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431667)

There must be a scientific version of Andy Warhol's aphorism: "theres a new theory every fifteen minutes". Whether its geology, astronomy, or medicine they cant seem to agree on a story.

Actually I am just being cynical. Some fields are finally showing convergence, such as cosmology where the evidence is starting to agree with each other. I suggest a lot of this "newest, greatest theory B.S." is publicity mongering by institutions trying get more grants.

Sounds like Yellowstone (5, Informative)

InterStellaArtois (808931) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431685)

This is interesting, as just last night I was reading about something similar in Bill Bryson's "A Short History of Nearly Everything" ...

To summarise, Nebraska is well known for its ash deposits - mined for cleaning products like Ajax - but no-one knew where it all came from.

Then in 1971, Mike Voorhies found a mass grave of prehistoric bones - sabre-toothed deer, zebra-like horses etc. - all killed by something big 12 million years ago. They were all buried under volcanic ash up to 3 metres deep.

One problem - no-one knew where all the ash came from.

Now Yellowstone was known to be pretty active, with its geysers, boiling mud-pools etc. but they couldn't find a caldera, ie. an actual volcano cone anywhere in the park.

But fortunately NASA were testing some high altitude photography techniques and decided to take some pictures of Yellowstone, thoughtfully dropping some copies off at the Visitor Centre. It was then that they realised that in fact Yellowstone is ONE BIG CALDERA - i.e. a 'superplume', 9000 square kilometres of crater left from some humungous explosion a long time back.

In Bill Bryson's words, "imagine a pile of TNT about the size of an English county and reaching 13 kilometres into the sky, to about the height of the highest cirrus clouds, and you have some idea of what visitors to Yellowstone are shuffling about on top of".

He goes on, "The Yellowstone eruption of two million years ago put out enough ash to bury New York State to a depth of 20 metres ..."

And then there's the last supervolcano eruption in Toba, in northern Sumatra, 74,000 years ago. Studies of ice cores in Greenland show that at least 6 years of 'volcanic winter' followed, and that humans probably were at the brink of extinction, with maybe only several thousand of us at any one time for thousands of years after (which maybe explains our relative lack of genetic diversity).

Yes, volcanoes are more than fire and magma - every now and then there're some *really* big ones.

Flow v. Floe (1)

rackrent (160690) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431686)

Forgive me if this is off-topic, but does any geologist here know why we have volcanic flows whereas when we refer to icebergs we have floes. The reason for the spelling difference isn't immediately apparent in any of the dictionaries.

I'm a graduate student, forgive me for this triviata.

Re:Flow v. Floe (1)

EvilTwinSkippy (112490) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431832)

Simple. Ice Floe is a term the Norwegians used to descibe thick chunks of ice. That's just their word for it, and it was so helpful we used it verbatim.

Linq [peacelink.de]

Re:Flow v. Floe (1)

barrkel (806779) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431844)

Uh, because floe comes via Norwegian from old norse for layer, while flow is an older English word, more related to water, tide, liquids, etc.

They had SUVs too?!? (-1, Troll)

drsmack1 (698392) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431687)

You can't tell me that you can have global warming with mankind! It takes pure evil to cause global warming and that evil is MAN! To infer that ANYTHING BAD on this planet happens despite and in disregard to man's efforts is a afront to the basic narcisism that all liberalism is based. That prevents me from hearing this information and now I cannot even remember what we were talking about. This is all mindless propaganda from right-wing religeous fanatics - shit, wait a sec. Michael Moore is on and I have to go - last time I missed him I was unable to know how to think on a particular issue and it was quite frightening!

Change in oxygen levels (4, Interesting)

dragons_flight (515217) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431703)

It is not obvious to me that changing oxygen levels would be all that destructive. We've known for a while that oxygen levels in the Triassic (following the "Great Dying") where some of the lowest in Earth's history. We have also known that oxygen concentration in the Carboniferous (50-100 Myr earlier) were some of the highest (perhaps 180% of modern value).

In the Carboniferous, what you see (in addition to extra nasty forest fires) is an explosion of gigantism among diffusion limited organisms. Such organisms, mostly insects and amphibans, have respiratory or circulatory systems that are limited by the ability of oxygen to diffuse through them. With higher O2 levels, such animals can develop larger body plans and clearly did in the Carboniferous. By contrast, falling O2 levels would probably be an evolutionary pressure towards dwarfism and smaller body plans.

After the Permian mass extinctions, we do see very few large animals. This might be associated with low O2 levels, but it might also be the results of an ecosystem so disrupted that it can't support large predators.

However, it would be hard to hang the extinctions on oxygen alone since oxygen levels seem to have fallened over a much longer period of time than the extinctions, and would not have affected all organisms equally. Perhaps coupled with volcanism and global warming it is enough, but personally I doubt it. I am inclined to favor models that talk about volcanism or other causes leading to stratification and toxicity in the oceans. If you are going to kill >90% of all oceanic species, it would seem that the best bet is to make the oceans unlivable for them.

However, this debate is likely to continue for a long time and we will no doubt hear many other theories before it is all done.

Here's my theory... (1)

DavidBrown (177261) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431767)

The "great dying" was caused by the meltdown of the core reactors of the ships that brought the ancient astronauts to the Earth. This meltdown happened because the ancient astronauts had a near-religious belief in closed-source system architecture and software that by default had very poor security.

The few ancient astronaut advocates of the "open-source secure spacing initiative" were thought to have been killed as well, but what really happened was that they left the Earth, and colonized Titan (hence the problems with the Huygens probe's "A" transmitter and the overall secrecy surrounding data coming from Titan. Interestingly enough, the ESA Titan team seems to have at least some open-source advocates who we may readily suspect are cooperating with their Titanian brothers and sisters.

Seriously, do you ever suspect that some scientists are simply throwing darts at a "Wheel of Grant Funding Fortune" when coming up with these theories? Sure, maybe the volcanos did it. But it could have been a virus too (hey, that's a good one, do you know where I can apply for grant money?)

life imitates spaceballs (1)

kisrael (134664) | more than 9 years ago | (#11431818)

Could you imagine if earth became like Planet Spaceball [imdb.com] , with our leaders denying there's a lack of Oxygen while taking big gulps of branded bottled oxygen "PerriAir"?
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