Early geologic time period can be predictor of climate change

JMU News

Harrisonburg, Virginia — With snow falling in parts of central Virginia on April 18, talk about a global warming crisis might seem a little far-fetched. But the effects of climate change and the dangers of global warming outlined in this year’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report occur over decades. 

The report notes that annual global greenhouse gas emissions were at their highest levels in human history from 2010-2019 and other studies have found that severe weather and wild fires have been getting more intense and destructive. 

What's in store if the warming continues? 

James Madison University geology professor Bill Lukens can make some assumptions based on his research of the Pliocene era, from 4 million years ago, the last time CO2 levels were as high as they are now. 

"We're finding that it was likely much wetter in the Great Plains back then compared to today," Lukens said. "But some computer simulations currently predict drying to occur as a result of anthropogenic climate change. Our discoveries will help inform how these models operate, which will give us a better idea of how to best prepare for climate change moving forward." 

Most of Lukens’ research involves fossil soils (paleosols), fossil wood and sedimentary systems. From these archives, he reconstructs the climate setting and environmental conditions from past landscapes. 

"My collaborators and I are constantly improving our methods, which involves statistical modeling and studying modern landscapes."

A list of more JMU experts who can speak on a number of other topics related to climate change and environment can be found here.




Contact: Eric Gorton, gortonej@jmu.edu, 540-908-1760 

More information about James Madison University, including rankings and recognitions can be found at jmu.edu/about.

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Published: Monday, April 18, 2022

Last Updated: Thursday, January 4, 2024

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