Rebuilt Britain millions of years ago to see what the climate would look like

A place where fossilized pollen was collected on the Isle of Anglesey in North Wales.Credits: Matt Pound, courtesy of author

Climate change is a global phenomenon and often appears to be a bigger problem in places that are already very hot and humid. But what does the climate crisis mean for the relatively mild UK? To find out Reconstructed Climate at a particular point in the distant past, an era when volcanoes pumped as much carbon into the atmosphere as they exist today. I knew it was hot, but I didn’t expect it to rain that much.

It is difficult to predict future changes in climate and their impact on the UK, but we know that humans are already causing temperature rises near 1 ° C in the UK. 6% increase With the amount of rainfall. Climate models predict futures of more extreme weather, more rainfall, warmer summers, and milder winters. Many may not oppose a milder winter, some may enjoy a hotter summer, but fewer will want more rain and more severe storms.

To see how likely these doomsday scenarios are, we can use the past as a natural laboratory. We know that the climate has changed through the 4.5 billion years of existence of the Earth ( Today’s speedAnd by reconstructing and studying these changes, we can explore climates that people have never experienced.Recently Published results One such experiment that examined the United Kingdom.

Return to Pliocene

One of the eras we saw was the Pliocene, about 2.6 to 5.3 million years ago. This was the most recent time when Britain was significantly warmer than it is today, and its landscape resembled the warm and moist forests found in modern southeastern China.

Rebuilt Britain millions of years ago to see what the climate would look like

Regarding the width of human hair, this is the pollen 12 million years ago that the author discovered fossilized in the Peak District.Credits: Matt Pound, courtesy of author

Climate modeling studies suggest that the world may begin to experience the Pliocene climate By the 2030s.. We used fossilized pollen from Essex and Suffolk to see what this means in the UK. From the types of pollen, you can know what kind of plants were growing at that time, and from these plants you can know the whole climate. This meant that we were able to get a sense of the climate millions of years ago, combined with more sophisticated computational techniques for reconstructing the climate of the past from plant debris.

According to our research, the Pliocene UK winters are a little warmer, but rainfall increases by about 25%, and much of this extra rain falls in winter.

Further back to the Middle Ages

If CO2 emissions do not stabilize over the next decade, we will return to a climate that we have not experienced since the earlier Miocene (5 to 23 million years ago). At that time, the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere was 400-600 parts per million (ppm), which is very similar to the current 419ppm. 500ppm to 650ppm predicted by 2070.. It’s no wonder this hot time. Small Greenland and Antarctic ice sheetsRecently by the IPCCInterval of interest“It may contain some clues about future anthropogenic warming.

So what did Britain look like at that point? The Peak District and the Isle of Anglesey fossil pollen provide climatic insights when CO2 emissions peak between 2040 and 2080. The Peak District pollen is 12 million years old, slightly younger than that of the Isle of Anglesey (about 2 million years). This shows a climate similar to that that can occur in the mid-21st century, with winter temperatures rising by 3 ° C and summers warming by 2 ° C.

The Fossil pollen Reconstructing the oldest and significantly different ones we have studied from the Isle of Anglesey climate From now: Winters and summers are 6 ° C warmer than today, with 61% more annual rainfall.

More frequent heavy rains increase the risk of flooding. Floods are already the most common type of natural disaster in the UK, and extreme floods are set to cause widespread damage to everything from roads and railroads to homes, livelihoods and natural ecosystems in the future. I am.

Higher flood risk combined with rising sea levels also increases storm surges and increases the likelihood of breaking coastal defenses. surely, IPCC Latest Report Shows that by 2080, warming from 3.5 ° C to 4.8 ° C could increase the cost of floods in the UK by almost 15-fold under high CO2 emission scenarios.

Mankind is compressing millions of years of natural change in just a few centuries

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Rebuilt Britain millions of years ago to see what the climate would look like

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