AGW Observer

Observations of anthropogenic global warming

Papers on GHG role in historical climate changes

Posted by Ari Jokimäki on August 15, 2009

This list of papers contains evidence of important role of greenhouse gases in historical climate changes. The list is not complete, and will most likely be updated in the future in order to make it more thorough and more representative.

See also papers on glacial terminations, which has lot of relevant papers to this list also.

UPDATE: (July 27, 2012): Lorius et al. (1990) added , thanks to Barry for pointing it out (see the comment section below).
UPDATE: (July 1, 2010): Ballantyne et al. (2010) added, thanks to J Bowers for pointing it out (see the comment section below).
UPDATE: (February 9, 2010): Doney & Schimel (2007) added.
UPDATE: (January 30, 2010): Halevy et al. (2009) added, thanks to Bob for pointing it out (see the comment section below).
UPDATE: (January 9, 2010): Cuffey & Vimeux (2001) added.
UPDATE: (October 12, 2009): Tripati et al. (2009) added.
UPDATE: (September 17, 2009): Shackleton & Pisias (1985) and Genthon et al. (1987) added.
UPDATE: (August 19, 2009): Hogg (2008), Scheffer et al. (2006), and Fischer et al. (1999) added.

Significantly warmer Arctic surface temperatures during the Pliocene indicated by multiple independent proxies – Ballantyne et al. (2010) “Here, we estimate mean annual temperature (MAT) based upon three independent proxies from an early Pliocene peat deposit in the Canadian High Arctic. Our proxies, including oxygen isotopes and annual ring widths (MAT = –0.5 ± 1.9 °C), coexistence of paleovegetation (MAT = –0.4 ± 4.1 °C), and bacterial tetraether composition in paleosols (MAT = –0.6 ± 5.0 °C), yield estimates that are statistically indistinguishable. The consensus among these proxies suggests that Arctic temperatures were ~19 °C warmer during the Pliocene than at present, while atmospheric CO2 concentrations were ~390 ppmv. These elevated Arctic Pliocene temperatures result in a greatly reduced and asymmetrical latitudinal temperature gradient that is probably the result of increased poleward heat transport and decreased albedo. These results indicate that Arctic temperatures may be exceedingly sensitive to anthropogenic CO2 emissions.” [Full text]

Radiative transfer in CO2-rich paleoatmospheres – Halevy et al. (2009) “We examine the sensitivity of line-by-line results to three parameterizations of line and continuum absorption by CO2, all of which yield essentially identical radiation fluxes at low CO2 abundance. However, when applied to atmospheres containing 0.1–5 bars of CO2, appropriate for early Earth and Mars, the outgoing longwave radiation calculated with the three parameterizations differs by as much as 40 W m−2. … Despite these uncertainties, we conclude that early Mars probably required other infrared absorbers to reach super-freezing surface temperatures, while for the early Earth, this is not necessarily the case.” [Full text]

Coupling of CO2 and Ice Sheet Stability Over Major Climate Transitions of the Last 20 Million Years – Tripati et al. (2009) “We use boron/calcium ratios in foraminifera to estimate pCO2 during major climate transitions of the last 20 million years (myr). During the Middle Miocene, when temperatures were ~3 to 6°C warmer and sea level 25 to 40 meters higher than present, pCO2 was similar to modern levels.”

Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim? – Hansen et al. (2008) Paper full of interesting discussion about past climate changes. “Paleoclimate data show that climate sensitivity is ∼3°C for doubled CO2, including only fast feedback processes. Equilibrium sensitivity, including slower surface albedo feedbacks, is ∼6°C for doubled CO2 for the range of climate states between glacial conditions and ice-free Antarctica.” [Full text]

Glacial cycles and carbon dioxide: A conceptual model – Hogg (2008) “Here I compare observed climate cycles with results from a simple model which predicts the evolution of global temperature and carbon dioxide over the glacial-interglacial cycle. The model includes a term which parameterises deep ocean release of CO2 in response to warming, and thereby amplifies the glacial cycle. In this model, temperature rises lead CO2 increases at the glacial termination, but it is the feedback between these two quantities that drives the abrupt warming during the transition from glacial to interglacial periods.” [Full text]

Linkages between CO2, climate, and evolution in deep time – Royer (2008) “Over the past 450 million years (Myr), CO2 was low when extensive, long-lived ice sheets were present (330–290 Myr ago and 35 Myr ago to the present day) and moderately high to high at other times. However, some intervals in Earth’s past fail to show any consistent relationship.” [Full text]

Atmospheric carbon dioxide linked with Mesozoic and early Cenozoic climate change – Fletcher et al. (2008) “Here, we present high-resolution records of Mesozoic and early Cenozoic atmospheric CO2 concentrations from a combination of carbon-isotope analyses of non-vascular plant (bryophyte) fossils and theoretical modelling. … Time-series comparisons show that these variations coincide with large Mesozoic climate shifts, in contrast to earlier suggestions of climate–CO2 decoupling during this interval. These reconstructed atmospheric CO2 concentrations drop below the simulated threshold for the initiation of glaciations on several occasions and therefore help explain the occurrence of cold intervals in a ‘greenhouse world’.”

The impact of Miocene atmospheric carbon dioxide fluctuations on climate and the evolution of terrestrial ecosystems – Kürschner et al. (2008) “Here we present a CO2 record based on stomatal frequency data from multiple tree species. Our data show striking CO2 fluctuations of ≈600–300 parts per million by volume (ppmv). Periods of low CO2 are contemporaneous with major glaciations, whereas elevated CO2 of 500 ppmv coincides with the climatic optimum in the Miocene. Our data point to a long-term coupling between atmospheric CO2 and climate.” [Full text]

Coupling of surface temperatures and atmospheric CO2 concentrations during the Palaeozoic era – Came et al. (2007) A follow-up paper to Veizer et al. (2000, see below) that arrives to opposite conclusion than Veizer et al. (2000) “Our results indicate that tropical sea surface temperatures were significantly higher than today during the Early Silurian period (443–423 Myr ago), when carbon dioxide concentrations are thought to have been relatively high, and were broadly similar to today during the Late Carboniferous period (314–300 Myr ago), when carbon dioxide concentrations are thought to have been similar to the present-day value. Our results are consistent with the proposal that increased atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations drive or amplify increased global temperatures.” [Full text]

Carbon and Climate System Coupling on Timescales from the Precambrian to the Anthropocene – Doney & Schimel (2007) A review paper. “Here we bring together evidence on the dominant climate, biogeochemical and geological processes organized by timescale, spanning interannual to centennial climate variability, Holocene millennial variations and Pleistocene glacial-interglacial cycles, and million-year and longer variations over the Precambrian and Phanerozoic. Our focus is on characterizing, and where possible quantifying, internal coupled carbon-climate system dynamics and responses to external forcing from tectonics, orbital dynamics, catastrophic events, and anthropogenic fossil-fuel emissions. One emergent property is clear across timescales: atmospheric CO2 can increase quickly, but the return to lower levels through natural processes is much slower. The consequences of human carbon cycle perturbations will far outlive the emissions that caused them.” [Full text]

CO2-forced climate thresholds during the Phanerozoic – Royer (2006) “Here, I compare 490 published proxy records of CO2 spanning the Ordovician to Neogene with records of global cool events to evaluate the strength of CO2-temperature coupling over the Phanerozoic (last 542 my). … A pervasive, tight correlation between CO2 and temperature is found both at coarse (10 my timescales) and fine resolutions up to the temporal limits of the data set (million-year timescales), indicating that CO2, operating in combination with many other factors such as solar luminosity and paleogeography, has imparted strong control over global temperatures for much of the Phanerozoic.” [Full text]

Positive feedback between global warming and atmospheric CO2 concentration inferred from past climate change – Scheffer et al. (2006) “Here we present an alternative way of estimating the magnitude of the feedback effect based on reconstructed past changes. Linking this information with the mid-range Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimation of the greenhouse gas effect on temperature we suggest that the feedback of global temperature on atmospheric CO2 will promote warming by an extra 15–78% on a century-scale.” [Full text]

CO2 as a primary driver of Phanerozoic climate – Royer et al. (2004) “Here we review the geologic records of CO2 and glaciations and find that CO2 was low (1000 ppm) during other, warmer periods.” [Full text]

Cosmic Rays, Carbon Dioxide, and Climate – Rahmstorf et al. (2004) “Two main conclusions result from our analysis of [Shaviv & Veizer, 2003]. The first is that the correlation of cosmic ray flux (CRF) and climate over the past 520 Myr appears to not hold up under scrutiny. … Our second conclusion is independent of the first. Whether there is a link of CRF and temperature or not, the authors’ estimate of the effect of a CO2-doubling on climate is highly questionable.” [Full text]

High CO2 levels in the Proterozoic atmosphere estimated from analyses of individual microfossils – Kaufman & Xiao (2003) “Our results indicate that carbon dioxide was an important greenhouse gas during periods of lower solar luminosity, probably dominating over methane after the atmosphere and hydrosphere became pervasively oxygenated between 2 and 2.2 gigayears ago.” [Full text]

Timing of Atmospheric CO2 and Antarctic Temperature Changes Across Termination III – Caillon et al. (2003) “The sequence of events during Termination III suggests that the CO2 increase lagged Antarctic deglacial warming by 800 ± 200 years and preceded the Northern Hemisphere deglaciation.”

Rapid Cenozoic glaciation of Antarctica induced by declining atmospheric CO2 – DeConto & Pollard (2003) “The sudden, widespread glaciation of Antarctica and the associated shift towards colder temperatures at the Eocene/Oligocene boundary (34 million years ago) (refs 1–4) is one of the most fundamental reorganizations of global climate known in the geologic record. … According to our simulation the opening of Southern Ocean gateways plays a secondary role in this transition, relative to CO2 concentration.” [Full text]

Carbon dioxide and climate over the past 300Myr – Retallack (2002) “Large and growing databases on these proxy indicators support the idea that atmospheric CO2 and temperature are coupled. In contrast, CO2–temperature uncoupling has been proposed from geological time-series of carbon isotopic composition of palaeosols and of marine phytoplankton compared with foraminifera, which fail to indicate high CO2 at known times of high palaeotemperature. Failure of carbon isotopic palaeobarometers may be due to episodic release of CH4, which has an unusually light isotopic value (down to −110[promille], and typically −60[promille]δ13C) and which oxidizes rapidly (within 7–24 yr) to isotopically light CO2.” [Full text]

Covariation of carbon dioxide and temperature from the Vostok ice core after deuterium-excess correction – Cuffey & Vimeux (2001) “Here we incorporate measurements of deuterium excess from Vostok in the temperature reconstruction and show that much of the mismatch is an artefact caused by variations of climate in the water vapour source regions. Using a model that corrects for this effect, we derive a new estimate for the covariation of CO2 and temperature, of r2 = 0.89 for the past 150 kyr and r2 = 0.84 for the period 350–150 kyr ago. Given the complexity of the biogeochemical systems involved, this close relationship strongly supports the importance of carbon dioxide as a forcing factor of climate. Our results also suggest that the mechanisms responsible for the drawdown of CO2 may be more responsive to temperature than previously thought.”

Evidence for decoupling of atmospheric CO2 and global climate during the Phanerozoic eon – Veizer et al. (2000) “Here we present a reconstruction of tropical sea surface temperatures throughout the Phanerozoic eon (the past 550 Myr) from our database of oxygen isotopes in calcite and aragonite shells. … But our data conflict with a temperature reconstruction using an energy balance model that is forced by reconstructed atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations.”

Climate and atmospheric history of the past 420,000 years from the Vostok ice core, Antarctica – Petit et al. (1999) “Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane correlate well with Antarctic air-temperature throughout the record. Present-day atmospheric burdens of these two important greenhouse gases seem to have been unprecedented during the past 420,000 years.” [Full text]

Ice Core Records of Atmospheric CO2 Around the Last Three Glacial Terminations – Fischer et al. (1999) “High-resolution records from Antarctic ice cores show that carbon dioxide concentrations increased by 80 to 100 parts per million by volume 600 ± 400 years after the warming of the last three deglaciations. Despite strongly decreasing temperatures, high carbon dioxide concentrations can be sustained for thousands of years during glaciations; the size of this phase lag is probably connected to the duration of the preceding warm period, which controls the change in land ice coverage and the buildup of the terrestrial biosphere.”

The ice-core record: climate sensitivity and future greenhouse warming – Lorius et al. (1990) “The prediction of future greenhouse-gas-induced warming depends critically on the sensitivity of Earth’s climate to increasing atmospheric concentrations of these gases. Data from cores drilled in polar ice sheets show a remarkable correlation between past glacial–interglacial temperature changes and the inferred atmospheric concentration of gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. These and other palaeoclimate data are used to assess the role of greenhouse gases in explaining past global climate change, and the validity of models predicting the effect of increasing concentrations of such gases in the atmosphere.” C. Lorius, J. Jouzel, D. Raynaud, J. Hansen & H. Le Treut, Nature 347, 139 – 145 (13 September 1990); doi:10.1038/347139a0. [Full text]

Vostok ice core: climatic response to CO2 and orbital forcing changes over the last climatic cycle – Genthon et al. (1987) “Vostok climate and CO2 records suggest that CO2 changes have had an important climatic role during the late Pleistocene in amplifying the relatively weak orbital forcing. The existence of the 100-kyr cycle and the synchronism between Northern and Southern Hemisphere climates may have their origin in the large glacial–interglacial CO2 changes.”

Atmospheric carbon dioxide, orbital forcing, and climate – Shackleton & Pisias (1985) “A 340,000-year record of benthic and planktonic oxygen and carbon isotope measurements from an equatorial Pacific deep-sea core are analyzed. The data provide estimates of both global ice volume and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration over this period. The frequencies characteristic of changes in the earth-sun orbital geometry dominate all the records. Examination of phase relationships shows that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration leads ice volume over the orbital bandwidth, and is forced by orbital changes through a mechanism, at present not fully understood, with a short response time. Changes in atmospheric CO2 are not primarily caused by glacial-interglacial sea level changes, which had been hypothesized to affect atmospheric CO2 through the effect on ocean chemistry of changing sedimentation on the continental shelves. Instead, variations in atmospheric CO2 should be regarded as part of the forcing of ice volume changes.”


10 Responses to “Papers on GHG role in historical climate changes”

  1. Ari Jokimäki said

    I added Tripati et al. (2009), abstract only, see above.

  2. Ari Jokimäki said

    I added Cuffey & Vimeux (2001).

  3. bob said

    I just don’t know if this one fits here. It was referenced in Richard Alley’s AGU lecture. Concerns quite large uncertainty in line-by-line models of the radiative forcing produced by very high concentrations of co2, such as those expected in Earth’s atmosphere billions of years ago.

    Click to access 102.pdf

  4. Ari Jokimäki said

    Thanks Bob, I added it. It indeed concentrates on the uncertainty issues, but it also addresses the CO2 role a little so it fits to this list, especially now as there’s not yet too much papers listed here.

  5. Ari Jokimäki said

    I added Doney & Schimel (2007).

  6. J Bowers said

    Ari, Prof David Greenwood just posted a link to his new paper, over at Climatesight. I think it belongs here, but you decide.

    Significantly warmer Arctic surface temperatures during the Pliocene indicated by multiple independent proxies (2010)

    Full text is free. He had this to say at Climatesight:

    “The research reports on our reconstruction of climate for Ellesmere Island in the Canadian high Arctic where we show that temperatures 4 to 5 million years ago were ~19C higher than today, at a time when atmospheric CO2 levels were very close to those today”

    OT, but his clear and brief explanation of paleoclimate at CS is excellent and worth a read.

  7. J Bowers said

    Sorry, it’s not a paper but an article (working late here). Still worth reading, though.

  8. Ari Jokimäki said

    Thank you, I added the Ballantyne et al. (2010). 🙂

  9. barry said

    Hi Ari,

    I noticed Lorius et al 1990 is listed in Climate Sensitivity Estimates, but it fits well in this list too, as it discusses relative contribution of feedbacks during ice age transitions, especially focussing on GHGs/CO2.

    Click to access Lorius90_ice-core.pdf

    It would also fit well in the list on Glacial Terminations. It’s a bit of a classic, an overview of the then knowledge of climate processes during ice age transitions.

  10. Ari Jokimäki said

    I added it here, thanks. 🙂

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