Ancient Global Warming Caused Episodic and Intense Rainfall Events


Scientists at the University of Bristol carried out new research to estimate the effects of ancient global warming that affected the Earth about 56 million years ago, during the Paleocene-Eocene period. They found out that episodic and intense rainfall events occurred due to the climate change phenomenon of those times.

The significant interest the researchers have in the ancient global warming of 56 million years ago is because of the similarities between the so-called Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) and the human-induced climate change phenomenon of nowadays. In this regard, while many studied how this fast global warming episode affected the Earth back then, only a few ones were dedicated to estimating the event’s impact on the hydrological cycle.

This new study, published recently in the Earth and Planetary Science Letters journal, focused precisely on the rainfall patterns during the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM).

Ancient global warming during the Palaeocene-Eocene period caused episodic and intense rainfall events, which could also happen again in the future

“With the same climate models used to study future climate change, we explored how a doubling of carbon dioxide concentrations would affect rainfall patterns on a world with Eocene geography,” said Dr. Matt Carmichael, the study’s leading author.

“That increased the overall global precipitation, as warmer air is holding more water. But it also changed the pattern and frequency of extreme events. The tropics became wetter, and the incidence of extreme events increased, by as much as 70 percent in some tropical regions,” the researcher added.

The study also found out that this ancient global warming event caused an increase in aridity in many areas where the rainfall events became episodic and intense.

“Past climate has lessons for our future. Not only do the models show evidence for more intense rainfall events, with all of the implications that entails, but they are consistent with all of our other data. In fact, they explain inconsistencies in our other data and confirm some long-established hypotheses. In doing so, they foreshadow our potential future with complex and dramatic changes in rainfall, more flooding, and more soil erosion,” concluded Rich Pancost, the study’s co-author.


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