News & Events

Research Theme: Paleoclimate

News

Check out INSTAAR’s most talked-about recent research

As part of the new year, we took a look at the most talked-about INSTAAR papers in recent months. An Altmetric search showed the top 10 papers with INSTAAR authors that have figured most prominently in the news and in social media conversations.

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Submit papers for AAAR journal’s special issue about West Greenland environments

Submit papers for AAAR journal’s special issue about West Greenland environments

Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research (AAAR) has announced a Call for Papers for a special issue to be published in 2017: “Environmental Change and Impacts in the Kangerlussuaq Area, West Greenland”

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Geological Society of America awards John Andrews the Penrose Medal

INSTAAR Fellow John Andrews has been awarded the Penrose Medal, the highest honor from the Geological Society of America, for his original contributions to the science of geology.

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Ancient extinction of giant Australian bird points to humans

The first direct evidence that humans played a substantial role in the extinction of the huge, wondrous beasts inhabiting Australia some 50,000 years ago--in this case a 500-pound bird, Genyornis newtoni--has been discovered by a University of Colorado Boulder-led team.

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On the ice in Greenland: RECAP Expedition drills ice core to bedrock in search of climate answers

Bruce Vaughn describes the international 2015 expedition to drill an ice core through the Renland Ice Cap, Greenland, in a video by student journalist Paul Mcdivitt.

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INSTAAR at AGU: Talks, posters, and sessions at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting

INSTAAR faculty and graduate students will share new research at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting in San Francisco, 15 to 19 December. They will present new research on abrupt climate change, air quality and fracking, polar climate change, atmospheric chemistry, flood impacts, forests and snow, plants and soils, and past climates.

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John Andrews named Honorary Member by the Quaternary Research Association

John Andrews named Honorary Member by the Quaternary Research Association

INSTAAR Senior Fellow and Geological Sciences Professor Emeritus John T. Andrews was named an Honorary Member by the Quaternary Research Association (QRA) at its recent meeting in London.

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INSTAAR-led study says Bering Land Bridge area likely a long-term refuge for early Americans

INSTAAR-led study says Bering Land Bridge area likely a long-term refuge for early Americans

A new study bolsters the theory that the first Americans, who are believed to have come over from northeast Asia during the last ice age, may have been isolated on the Bering Land Bridge for thousands of years before spreading throughout the Americas. The theory, now known as the “Beringia Standstill,” was first proposed in 1997, but gained little traction outside of the genetics community after it was proposed and has been seen by some scientists outside of the field as far-fetched. But the new paper by INSTAAR researcher John Hoffecker and co-authors Scott Elias of Royal Holloway, University of London, and Dennis O’Rourke of the University of Utah adds credence to the Beringia Standstill idea by further linking the genetics to the paleoecological evidence.

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Astrid Ogilvie awarded Nansen Professorship

Astrid Ogilvie awarded Nansen Professorship

Astrid Ogilvie is on her way to Iceland as the new Visiting Nansen Professor in Arctic Studies at the University of Akureyri. Ogilvie was awarded the twelve-month appointment by representatives from the University of Akureyri and the Icelandic and Norwegian ministries of foreign affairs.

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INSTAAR at AGU: Talks, posters, and sessions at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting

INSTAAR faculty and graduate students will share their research at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting (http://fallmeeting.agu.org/2013/) held in San Francisco, 9 to 13 December. They will present new research on abrupt climate change, atmospheric chemistry, geomorphology, rivers and oceans, forests and snow, plants and soils, past climates, flood monitoring, Antarctic volcanoes, coastal erosion, and emissions from energy production.

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Down to Earth: Meet an INSTAAR scientist and a renowned photographer on their home ground

Down to Earth: Meet an INSTAAR scientist and a renowned photographer on their home ground

Meet the people behind the science—and art—resulting from INSTAAR research, featured in two recent EARTH Magazine interviews.

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Ice-free Arctic Ocean may have amped up temperatures during the Pliocene

Ice-free Arctic Ocean may have amped up temperatures during the Pliocene

A new study involving Giff Miller, Jim White, and former students and postdocs suggests that an ice-free Arctic Ocean may have amped up temperatures during the Pliocene Epoch. Year-round ice-free conditions across the Arctic Ocean could explain why the Earth was substantially warmer during the Pliocene Epoch than it is today, despite similar concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, according to the research published online in Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology.

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Deep ice cores show past Greenland warm period may be ‘road map’ for continued warming of planet

Deep ice cores show past Greenland warm period may be ‘road map’ for continued warming of planet

New results from the international NEEM deep ice core drilling project on Greenland, analyzing cores going back in time more than 100,000 years, indicates the last interglacial period may be a good analog for where the planet is headed in terms of increasing greenhouse gases and rising temperatures.

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New climate study may answer long-standing questions about Little Ice Age

New climate study may answer long-standing questions about Little Ice Age

A new study led by INSTAAR Fellow Gifford Miller appears to answer contentious questions about the onset and cause of Earth’s Little Ice Age, a period of cooling temperatures that began after the Middle Ages and lasted into the late 19th century. According to the study, the Little Ice Age began abruptly between A.D. 1275 and 1300, triggered by repeated, explosive volcanism and sustained by a self-perpetuating sea ice-ocean feedback system in the North Atlantic Ocean.

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‘Horizontal ice core’ shows history of atmospheric methane

‘Horizontal ice core’ shows history of atmospheric methane

INSTAAR postdoc Vasilii Petrenko was interviewed by Public Radio International (PRI) while helping drill shallow ice cores on the Taylor Glacier in Antarctica. The interview begins with the the eerie pinging sounds created by dropping leftover ice blocks back into a borehole 20 m (70 ft) deep.

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New study ties warm North Atlantic water to heating Arctic

New study ties warm North Atlantic water to heating Arctic

North Atlantic water flowing into the Arctic Ocean is warmer than it has been in at least 2,000 years, which is likely amplifying global warming in the Arctic, says a new international study involving INSTAAR fellow Tom Marchitto. The team believes that the rapid warming of the Arctic and recent decrease in sea ice extent are tied to the enhanced heat transfer from the North Atlantic Ocean.

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North Greenland ice core drilling expected to help predict abrupt climate change and sea level rise

North Greenland ice core drilling expected to help predict abrupt climate change and sea level rise

An international science team involving CU-Boulder that is working on the North Greenland Eemian Ice Drilling project (NEEM) hit bedrock July 27 after two summers of work, drilling down more than 1.5 miles in an effort to help assess the risks of abrupt future climate change on Earth.

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Surviving ancient Alaska

Craig Lee and James Dixon are featured in a National Geographic Series “Naked Science.” The episode is titled “Surviving Ancient Alaska" and includes Lee and Dixon's research into the archaeological potential of melting snow and ice in Denali and Lake Clark National Parks.

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Arctic lake sediment record shows warming, unique ecological changes in recent decades

A team of researchers discovered that biological and chemical changes occurring at a remote Arctic lake in recent decades are unprecedented over the past 200,000 years and the result of human-caused climate change. Their record of past environments goes back in time 80,000 years before the oldest reliable ice cores from Greenland and captures three interglacial periods, including the Holocene. But changes seen in the sediment cores since about 1950 show that expected natural climate cooling and related changes in the lake environment are being overridden by human activity like greenhouse gas emissions.

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Recent warming reverses long-term Arctic cooling

An international team of scientists have reconstructed past climate in the Arctic over the past 2,000 years in unprecedented detail. The team found that Arctic temperatures have reversed from a long-term cooling trend and are now the warmest they have been in at least 2,000 years, bad news for the world’s coastal cities facing rising seas in the coming decades.

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INSTAAR scientists help break ice core drilling record

A new international research effort on the Greenland ice sheet--with Jim White helping lead the U.S. contribution--set a record for single-season deep ice-core drilling this summer, recovering more than a mile of ice core that is expected to help scientists better assess the risks of abrupt climate change in the future.

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Ice sheets can retreat in a geologic instant

Researchers have produced an exceptionally detailed record of past ice-sheet retreat through a Canadian fjord and, in the process, have provided insight into how present ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica may thin and retreat with continued global warming.

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Type of methane found in ancient ice is good news for planet

Vasilii Petrenko (INSTAAR postdoc) led a large international team in developing and applying a new technique for analyzing the carbon-14 content of methane in ancient Greenland ice. Their analyses suggest that a spike in the greenhouse gas methane about 11,600 years ago originated from wetlands rather than the ocean floor or from permafrost, a finding that is good news from a global warming standpoint.

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Gifford Miller elected fellow of the American Geophysical Union

Gifford Miller was elected a fellow of the American Geophysical Union for his "pioneering work in dating methods as well as his insights into Quaternary climates and the role of humans in ecological change." Fellowship is bestowed on no more than 0.1 percent of the total AGU membership of about 45,000 in any given year and recognizes scientists who have attained acknowledged eminence in the geophysical sciences.

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Synthesis report on past climate variability in the Arctic and implications for the future

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Encyclopedia of Paleoclimatology and Ancient Environments published

Lesleigh Anderson, John Andrews, Tom Marchitto, Giff Miller, and Daniel Muhs are among the contributors to an exceptional new resource.

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Vera Markgraf lauded for research and service by University of Bern

The INSTAAR fellow emerita was one of six honored by University during its 174th Dies Academicus.

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Greenland ice core analysis shows abrupt climate change near end of last ice age

Jim White and Trevor Popp are part of a 17-person international ice-core team who discovered that two huge temperature spikes prior to the close of the last ice age some 11,500 years ago were tied to rapid and fundamental shifts in atmospheric circulation.

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Baffin Island ice caps smallest in at least 1,600 years

Baffin Island ice caps smallest in at least 1,600 years

Rebecca Anderson, Gifford Miller, Stephen DeVogel, and colleagues have determined that ice caps on the northern plateau of Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic are currently smaller than they have been for at least the last 1,600 years, with their extent shrinking by more than 50% since 1958. Even with no additional warming, the ice caps are expected to disappear in 50 years or less.

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New book: Human Ecology of Beringia

John Hoffecker and Scott Elias have produced a synthesis of environment and human settlement in Beringia, published by Columbia University Press.

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John Andrews chosen for GSA Distinguished Career Award

John Andrews has been chosen to receive the Distinguished Career Award with the Quaternary Geology and Geomorphology Division of the Geological Society of America for his legacy in Quaternary geology and geomorphology.

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Gifford Miller interviewed for NOVA documentary on Australian Pleistocene megafauna

Gifford Miller provided commentary for Bone Diggers, a new NOVA documentary on the discovery of pristine skeletal remains of Pleistocene megafauna in remote Australian limestone caves.

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Atmospheric CO2 pulses at the end of last ice age originated from the deep ocean

Tom Marchitto, Scott Lehman, Jaqueline Flückiger, and colleagues have identified a mechanism for the enormous carbon dioxide increase in Earth's atmosphere at the end of the last ice age: abrupt changes in deep ocean circulation. The team analyzed sediment cores from the North Pacific, discovering two large CO2 "burps."

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No pervasive Holocene ice-rafted debris (IRD) signal in northern North Atlantic?

John Andrews, Anne Jennings, and colleagues have assembled marine core records of ice-rafted debris (IRD) off North Iceland, East Greenland, and Labrador that are at odds with an earlier and oft-cited study showing a pervasive ~1.5 thousand year periodicity of IRD delivery during the Holocene (last ~11,400 years).

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David Anderson received Arthur S. Fleming Award

For exceptional scientific research, David Anderson received an award that recognizes excellence in the federal workforce.

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Earth’s past suggests polar melting may raise sea level sooner than expected

Gifford Miller was a member of two research teams that combined paleoclimate evidence from the Last Interglacial period with climate and ice sheet modeling to infer that Earth's warming temperatures are on track to melt the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets sooner than previously thought and ultimately lead to a global sea level rise of at least 20 feet.

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Gifford Miller: Recipient of the 2005 Easterbrook Distinguished Scientist Award

Gifford Miller received the Easterbrook Distinguished Scientist Award at the Geological Society of America's (GSA) 2005 annual meeting.

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Methane gyrations in past 2,000 years show human influence on atmosphere

Humans have been tinkering with greenhouse gas levels in Earth's atmosphere for at least 2,000 years and probably longer, according to a surprising new study of methane trapped in Antarctic ice cores conducted by an international research team.

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Ancient diets of Australian birds point to big ecosystem changes

Gifford Miller led an international team to discover that the diet of two flightless birds inhabiting Australia shifted soon after humans arrived ca. 50,000 years ago, coincident with a rapid and dramatic shift in the ecosystem's flora. Their discovery is the best evidence yet that early humans may have altered the continent's interior with fire, changing it from a mosaic of trees, shrubs, and grasses to the desert scrub evident today.

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Arid Australian interior linked to landscape burning by ancient humans

Landscape burning by ancient hunters and gatherers may have triggered the failure of the annual Australian Monsoon some 12,000 years ago, resulting in the desertification of the country's interior that is evident today, according to a new study.

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A prehistory of the North: Human settlement of the higher latitudes

John Hoffecker has written a compelling account of how humans, who evolved in the tropics, came to inhabit some of the coldest places on earth over the span of nearly two million years.

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North Greenland ice core reveals gradual, abrupt climate swings

A new, undisturbed Greenland ice deep-core record going back 123,000 years shows the Eemian period prior to the last glacial period was slightly warmer than the present day before it gradually cooled and sent Earth into an extended deep freeze.

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Greenland ice core project yields probable ancient plant remains

A team of international researchers working on the North Greenland Ice Core Project recently recovered what appear to be plant remnants nearly two miles below the surface between the bottom of the glacial ice and the bedrock.

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Millenial-scale changes in Pacific surface temperature, Patagonian ice extent studied

Joe Stoner participated in a German-led study of marine sediments from the Chilean continental margin that show a clear "Antarctic" timing of sea surface temperature changes.

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New ice core record will help understanding of ice ages, global warming, CU prof says

Recovery of a new ice core in Antarctica that extends back 740,000 years--nearly twice as long as any other ice core record--will help scientists better understand the Earth's climate and issues related to global warming, according to INSTAAR Jim White.

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INSTAAR grad student visits Japan with NSF EAPSI program

INSTAAR graduate student Jocelyn Turnbull spent 8 weeks in Japan working on a carbon cycle research project with the greenhouse gas group at Tohoku University in Sendai.

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A better radiocarbon clock improves understanding of Earth’s carbon cycle and geomagnetic field

Researchers have constructed a new high-resolution calibration of the radiocarbon time scale back to 50,000 years before the present.

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Long-term North Atlantic oceanographic variability and solar forcing

John Andrews led a six-person team to reconstruct a high-resolution paleoceanographic history off North Iceland for the past 12,000 years.

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Postglacial flooding of the Bering Land Bridge: An animation

William Manley used a Geographic Information System (GIS) to create a movie showing how the Bering Land Bridge evolved after the Last Glacial Maximum, about 21,000 years ago.

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America’s first inhabitants may have used the coastal road

E. James Dixon was interviewed for a Nature News Feature on the explosion of interest in studying the climatic, environmental and geological conditions that prevailed along the Pacific Coast during the past 35,000 years.

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Abrupt changes in Asian monsoon over last 11,000 years linked to North Atlantic climate

Anil Gupta (Indian Institute of Technology), David Anderson (INSTAAR & NOAA Paleoclimatology), and Jonathan Overpeck (U of Arizona) developed a new centennial-scale proxy record of the southwestern monsoon winds spanning the Holocene period (last ~11,000 years).

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John Andrews honored with special sessions at Geological Society of America Annual Meeting

The Geological Society of America honored John Andrews' tremendous impact on the Quaternary sciences at the annual meeting with two special sessions entitled "Quaternary Sciences from Land to Sea: In Honor of John T. Andrews."

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CU-Boulder professor Mark Meier to receive Goldthwait Polar Medal

Mark Meier, one of the world's leading glaciologists, has been named the winner of the Goldthwait Polar Medal in recognition of his outstanding contributions to polar research.

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Aboriginal climate change

Gifford Miller was interviewed while doing fieldwork in Australia by INSTAAR affiliate Daniel Grossman for stories aired on National Public Radio and Radio Netherlands in March. Miller's studies indicate that Aborigines in Australia may have contributed to widespread climate change some 50,000 years ago

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Ice Age rearrangement of ocean pH

David Anderson and David Archer (Univ Chicago) have reconstructed carbonate-ion concentration—and hence pH—of the glacial oceans, using the extent of calcium carbonate dissolution observed in foraminifer faunal assemblages.

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Colorado’s drought plan considers paleoclimatic record

Connie Woodhouse was cited in the recently published Colorado Drought Mitigation and Response Plan for her dendroclimatological work showing persistent periods of drought lasting longer than droughts in the instrumental record.

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Antarctic ice core indicates record warming spike 19,000 years ago

Ancient ice cores indicate air temperatures in Antarctica rose up to 18 degrees Fahrenheit in just a few decades as the last ice age began to wane some 19,000 years ago, the largest and most abrupt warming spike ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere.

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In The News

Last remnant of North American ice sheet on track to vanish

The last piece of the ice sheet that once blanketed much of North America is doomed to disappear in the next several centuries, says a new study by researchers at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia and the University of Colorado Boulder.

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Last remnant of North American ice sheet likely to disappear in 300 years

Study led by Giff Miller finds that current Arctic warming is almost unheard of in past 2.5 million years.

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New interdisciplinary center explores the beginnings - of everything

How do you study a historical event? This is the challenge that faces all studies of origins, which take place in virtually every academic field. A new Center for the Study of Origins at CU, funded through and part of the campus-wide Grand Challenge initiative, is one of the top two places in the world for collaborative origins research across disciplines. The center is primed to investigate an under-appreciated but important issue: the diversity, nature and justification of theories about the past, and how they inform our understanding of both the present and the future.

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The Economist: America’s first immigrants had to wait 8,000 years to be admitted

How America was originally colonised is a topic of perennial interest at the AAAS. The puzzle may be nearing a solution, with archaeological digs pushing physical evidence of America’s settlement back in time, and a different model of linguistic evolution bringing the common ancestor of Native-American tongues forward.

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Humans, not climate change, wiped out Australian megafauna

New evidence involving the ancient poop of some of the huge and astonishing creatures that once roamed Australia indicates the primary cause of their extinction around 45,000 years ago was likely a result of humans, not climate change. A team of researchers from Monash University in Victoria, Australia, and INSTAAR used information from a sediment core drilled in the Indian Ocean off the coast of southwest Australia to help reconstruct past climate and ecosystems on the continent. The sediment core allowed scientists to look back in time, in this case more than 150,000 years, spanning Earth’s last full glacial cycle. Fungal spores from plant-eating mammal dung were abundant in the sediment core layers from 150,000 years ago to about 45,000 years ago, when they went into a nosedive.

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During last period of global warming, Antarctica warmed 2 to 3 times more than planet average

Following Earth’s last ice age, which peaked 20,000 years ago, the Antarctic warmed between two and three times the average temperature increase worldwide, according to a new study. The disparity validates many climate models and highlights the fact that the poles amplify the effects of a changing climate.

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Events

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