Capstone Title

A Synopsis of Earth's Changing Climate Since the Cretaceous Period: Past, Present, and Future Implications

Defense Date

2-2004

Document Type

Capstone

Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

First Advisor

Patricia Blackwelder

Second Advisor

Andrew Rogerson

Abstract

Climatic changes have occurred since the beginning of Earth's history (Ruddiman, 2001 ). Records of these changes are found in fauna and flora preserved in the sediments. Due to advances in technology and science, scientists are able to reconstruct the climatic history of the Earth over time scales of hundreds to millions of years. They most often base these reconstructions on recoverable paleontological evidence. One type of evidence is that from marine microfossils which may be preserved in the sea floor sediments. The data from these studies can then be compared to other proxies, such as terrestrial leaf fossils, in order to utilize both marine and land evidence for paleoclimate reconstruction (Ruddiman, 2001). Data from ice cores and sedimentology studies are also effective in reconstructing climate. What are thought to be highly accurate models have been created, utilizing this kind of data for paleoclimate reconstruction. By extrapolating the data, future climate change can also be predicted based on past trends. Paleoclimate studies have shown that during the Cretaceous Period the Earth's climate went though a warming phase. This time period is of particular interest today, since the Earth is currently experiencing another warming phase. Since the Cretaceous the Earth has undergone a series of important climate changes. These climate changes are analyzed and used to make predictions about future climate changes on Earth. This paper presents a sampling of climate studies and their results from the Cretaceous through the Quaternary Period. It also provides an understanding of what life was like on the planet during each time period and how climate played an important role. Lastly, this paper explores how scientists use their knowledge of climate systems to make predictions of the future of the Earth's current warming cycle.

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