What can we learn from climate change 66 million years ago?
A mass extinction at the end of the Cretaceous period, 66 million years ago, led to the demise of most of the dinosaurs and the majority of species on land and in the sea. A meteor impacted in the Gulf of Mexico at this time, but how exactly did the meteor impact cause mass extinction?
We are a partner in a three-year NERC project to study climate change at this time. Scientists at the universities of Manchester and Plymouth have been studying the composition of fossil molecules from bacteria that lived in peat and was accumulating at the time of the meteor impact. By studying their composition, it is possible to reconstruct the temperature change that happened because of the meteor impact. Global warming is forecast to exceed 2°C above preindustrial temperatures by 2100. Current climate models find it difficult to predict how the oceans and atmosphere distribute the warming around the planet. So this study will give us evidence so we can better predict our own future.