Large-scale climate changes occur naturally, new research says

A Canadian researcher has found new evidence that — contrary to previous belief — the past 6,000 years have been marked by large-scale climate changes occurring naturally, on a regular basis. He and his research team have documented four abrupt climate shifts over the past 5,500 years in western Canada, occurring on average every 1,220 years. Until now the last 6,000 years has been considered climatically stable, with the main evidence of large-scale shifts being found in the Greenland ice cores and sediments from the Atlantic Ocean. The team’s findings are reported in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.From Queen’s University :Large-scale climate changes occur naturally

Society must prepare for both natural and human-caused climate shifts, Queen’s researcher says

(Kingston, ON) — Queen’s University biologist Brian Cumming has found new evidence that — contrary to previous belief ? the past 6,000 years have been marked by large-scale climate changes occurring naturally, on a regular basis.

He and his research team have documented four abrupt climate shifts over the past 5,500 years in western Canada, occurring on average every 1,220 years. Until now the last 6,000 years has been considered climatically stable, with the main evidence of large-scale shifts being found in the Greenland ice cores and sediments from the Atlantic Ocean.

The team’s findings are reported in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).

Global swings in climatic conditions can dramatically affect continental water supplies, with the potential of creating widespread devastation, the Queen’s researcher warns. These findings underscore the need to be prepared for the repercussions of large-scale climate shifts in future, due to both natural and human factors.

“If we ask the question, ‘Is our society ready to respond to the natural climate surprises that are in store for us?’ the answer is ‘No’,” says Dr. Cumming, a biologist with Queen’s Paleoecological Environmental Assessment & Research Laboratory (PEARL). “Are we ready to respond to natural and human-derived changes in climate? Absolutely not.”

By analysing core samples of fossilized diatoms (tiny, unicellular, plankton-like organisms) removed from Big Lake in British Columbia, the team found evidence of four millennial-scale climate shifts. These shifts correspond closely to climate change in the Atlantic Ocean, measured by sea-floor sediments released from ice sheets.

Working with Dr. Cumming on this study were: Kathleen Laird, Joseph Bennett, Anne Salomon and John Smol from Queen’s. The research was funded by an NSERC grant to Dr. Cumming.

Contacts:

David Pulver, Queen’s News & Media Services, 613.533.6000 ext. 77559
Nancy Marrello, Queen’s News & Media Services, 613.533.6000, ext. 74040

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