Thursday, July 5, 2007

The scourge of SUVs in ancient Greenland

Ker Than of LiveScience reports on a shocking study by researchers at the University of Copenhagen that brazenly implies that the earth's climate can vary dramatically without any help from humans:
The oldest ever recovered DNA samples have been collected from under more than a mile of Greenland ice, and their analysis suggests the island was much warmer during the last Ice Age than previously thought.

The DNA is proof that sometime between 450,000 and 800,000 years ago, much of Greenland was especially green and covered in a boreal forest that was home to alder, spruce and pine trees, as well as insects such as butterflies and beetles.

From the genetic material of these organisms, the researchers infer that Greenland’s temperature once varied from 50 degrees Fahrenheit in summer to 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit in winter—the temperature range that the tree species prefer.

“We have shown for the first time that southern Greenland ... was once very different to the Greenland we see today,” said study leader Eske Willerslev of the University of Copenhagen.

Less glacial cover in ancient Greenland means the global ocean was probably between three and six feet higher during that time compared to current levels, the scientists say.

“To get this site ice free you would’ve had to remove the ice cover from about the southern third of Greenland,” study team member Martin Sharp, a glaciologist at the University of Alberta, Canada, told LiveScience.

Bear in mind that this happened long before President Bush withdrew America's signature from the Kyoto treaty.