Press-Republican

Columns

June 6, 2010

Earth's climate changes — a long story

At 4.52 billion years of age, our planet is no spring chicken.

While still young compared with the age of the universe (about 13.7 billion years), it has seen and experienced a lot of weather and climate. One big climate-changing event about 65.5 million years ago occurred when a space rock, about 6 miles in diameter, and traveling an estimated 15 miles per second, slammed into Earth's surface in the Yucatan in northeast Mexico.

Its mass and kinetic energy was so great that it plowed miles deep into the Earth's mantle creating a crater that is about 120 miles wide. Then things got really interesting. The underlying carbonate and sulfate rocks released hundreds of billions of tons of water vapor, carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide gases. An enormous plume of these gases along with ash, dust, rock, boulders and all manner of debris erupted into the sky and was globally distributed with huge consequences. At least it was for the dinosaurs. It is believed they all died in a short period of time.

Climate Forcing

This event is an excellent definition of "climate forcing." This climate-forcing event caused fires to burn for a long time, and along with the ash, hid the sun. More than 50 percent of the land and ocean species disappear from the fossil record. A recent paper in Science (Vol. 327, 5 March 2010, p1214) with 33 authors reaffirm these events. Many other sudden and not-so-sudden forcing events have occurred during Earth's long history.

A not-so-sudden climate-forcing event discussed in this column previously is the formation, and subsequent melting, of huge glaciers during the many ice ages that have occurred in the past. The Earth's orbital cycles detailed in the Milankovich theory are believed to be responsible for these events. They take place over thousands and tens of thousands of years. In a way, these two natural episodes mark the natural bookends of climate change from the very sudden to the lengthy.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Columns
  • Terry_Mattingly.jpg Easter with doubters and the 'nones'

    Should more pastors ask this blunt question: "Do you really believe Jesus was raised from the dead?" wonders religion columnist Terry Mattingly.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Canadiens are Canada's team

    The National Hockey League playoffs are underway, and for Canadiens fans, many of whom likely reside in the Montreal "suburb" of Plattsburgh, it is a time of hope and joy.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • little_mug.jpg There's no saw like an old saw Kaye and I laughed ourselves silly the other day as we tried to top each other with our own sayings from childhood, columnist Gordie Little writes.

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • Denenberg_Stu1.jpg Privacy concerns make a comeback

    There's a growing concern amongst the millennials, columnist Stu Denenberg writes.

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • paul_grasso.jpg Several options exist for downtown

    Pedestrian mall just one idea that could be good for city's economic future, according to columnist Paul Grasso.

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Government can't create success on its own

    It takes a grass-roots community effort of people working together to assure future accomplishment, according to columnist Colin Read.

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hagar_mug1.jpg Farmers strive for sustainability

    Conserving the land and assuring long-term profitability are two of the key goals for farmers these days, according to columnist Peter Hagar.

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Big shift in Quebec vote

    Being a man of science, Philippe Couillard, premier-designate of Quebec, chose to use a geological term (though his field is actually medicine) to describe what happened in Monday's election, writes Canadian columnist Peter Black.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Terry_Mattingly.jpg A monastery in the Hebrides, after 1,000 years

    Before Father Seraphim Aldea can build a monastery on Scotland's Mull Island, he needs to have a working septic system, writes religion columnist Terry Mattingly.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Tobias_Sue_012914.jpg Old movies offer more than entertaining TV

    Columnist Susan Tobias and her husband, Toby, are reminded of simple childhood memories while watching an old black-and-white movie.

    April 9, 2014 1 Photo

Peter Black: Canadian Dispatch

Lois Clermont, Editor

Cornell Cooperative Extension
Richard Gast: Cornell Ag Extension

Bob Grady

Guest Columns
Peter Hagar: Cornell Ag Connection

Health Advice

Ray Johnson: Climate Science
Gordie Little: Small Talk

Terry Mattingly: On Religion

Steve Ouellette: You Had To Ask

Colin Read: Everybody's Business

Pinch of Time