October 3, 2022

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Vulkanutbrudd på Island i august.

Researchers close to answers to a mysterious climate disaster outside Sandnessjøen – NRK Nordland

Sudden warming has long been a mystery to scientists around the world.

Over the course of a few thousand years, the temperature on Earth has risen by five to eight degrees.

Several theories have been speculated. Everything from a large meteor impact to the emission of greenhouse gases on Earth’s surface has been discussed.

But researchers may now have discovered where and how the abrupt climate change occurred: a giant underwater volcanic eruption off the coast of Nordland.

Digging at the bottom of the sea

Last summer, the international research vessel JOIDES Resolution mapped a course for the Vøring Plateau in the Norwegian Sea.

Here they drilled across several hundred meters of the sea floor to extract 55 million-year-old rock samples.

– That was what we’ve been looking for and hoping to find, says geologist Ambassador Blanc about the results.

He was one of the two captains of the ship.

The geologist helped Ambassador Planck lead the research work off the coast of Nordland. Here he is in front of glowing lava at a volcano in Iceland.

Photo: private

– We’ve been working on this for many years: researching the links between volcanic activity and rapid climate change.

she was Forsking who reported the results for the first time.

20 years of work

Already in 2004, Blanke and his colleagues published the hypothesis that volcanic eruptions in the Norwegian Sea were the cause of the sharp rise in global temperature.

The eruptions occurred as Greenland slid westward, away from Norway, and toward present-day North America.

Map of the Foreng Plateau where researchers excavated rock samples.

The Foringe Plateau is suitable for geological investigations as the sedimentary layers above the volcanic remains are only a few hundred meters thick. These are often located under several kilometers of sediment.

Graphics: Egil Ursin

As the continents diverged, lava erupted from the Earth’s interior. This led to significant emissions of greenhouse gases.

Gases were formed when a lot of volcanic materials entered sediment basins Where greenhouse gases are formed. These gases were then released through large tube structures on the sea floor.

Researchers have now mapped about 700 of these in the Norwegian Sea.

– Boiling sea

Seismic surveys have proven huge craters under the sea floor, but they haven’t been able to accurately date and describe them – until now.

– Here we have rocks that show that there was a coincidence with emissions 55 million years ago. So now you can document this event in a completely different way, which is why this is so important.

Iceland volcano eruption

When the Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted in 2010, 15 cubic kilometers of lava emerged from the ground. During the eruption of the volcano 55 million years ago, scientists estimated that up to one million cubic kilometers of lava was released.

Photo: Emmanuel Dunand/Afp

Charred wood and pollen were found in the rock samples, Blanke says, indicating that the area was in shallow water at the time.

– As if the sea was boiling during the eruption.

A window into a possible future

Kiki Cleven is director of the Perkins Center for Climate Research at the University of Bergen.

Kiki Fleisha Calvin

Climate scientist Kikki Flesche Kleiven is director of the Bjerknes Center at the University of Bergen.

Photo: Stian Sørum Røkenes / NRK

She says that many climatologists are studying past warm periods on the globe in order to better understand climate change today.

There are clear similarities with what happened 55 million years ago, and the emissions that occur today.

At that time, the level of carbon dioxide changed rapidly, but it is changing even faster today. This is the biggest difference. The rate at which we humans pumped carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is 10 times higher than during the warm period.

The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is measured in parts per million (ppm).

55 million years ago the level reached 1,000 parts per million. Today it is 418 ppm. .

With the emission levels we have now, we could reach 1,000 parts per million within 140 years, says Cleven.

– We are afraid that with very high emissions, 2-3-4 degrees of warming may each pass. Then we’re getting close to the warming that happened 55 million years ago, but it’s happening much faster.

Thus, the warm period contrasts with the highest emissions scenarios released by the United Nations Climate Panel.

It’s a window into a possible future.

But despite the fact that the temperature on Earth rose by more than five degrees 55 million years ago, there were no signs of a mass death of species on Earth.

– This is true, but we must bear in mind that it happened over several thousand years. Species and ecosystems can adapt if changes occur slowly.

– I often hear that “It was always warmer than before”. But then we have to put it in temporal perspective. Something happening over several thousand years is very different from what happens in 150 years.

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