There can be no rational question but that our planet is experiencing a period of global warming. The data shows that warming is growing daily, but research is also showing that this is not an unusual situation. In the past, there have been periods of global warming far greater than what we are experiencing now. However, humans were not a part of the global warming issue then, but they certainly are involved today.
In the geologic period known as the Pliocene, carbon dioxide levels were similar to today’s. They trapped heat and raised global temperatures higher than what we are experiencing now. Temperatures in the Arctic were as much as 19 degrees Celsius higher than today. This warmth allowed changes in the living systems that were around at the time. In the Arctic, forests grew, and mammals like horses and camels became abundant. Wildfires roared across the landscape spewing soot into the air which further altered the climate of the area.
We are now seeing fires around the world which can alter climate. Russia had a fire that burned 283,280 square kilometers in 2012. In 2015 there were 20,230 square kilometers burned in Alaska. California has been experiencing some of the worst fires on record. Wildfires have broken out in Greenland, which is unusual. Scientists are investigating how soot from the fires is affecting the climate of the region.
In our day of concern over carbon emissions and global warming, it is always good to see something positive taking place in the environment. Every day there is a new view in space posted by NASA at the website apod.nasa.gov. On April 24, 2017, there was a photograph taken from space of the Black Sea showing a bloom of coccolithophores. So what are they and why should you care? Coccolithophores are phytoplankton, tiny organisms that live in the large bodies of water such as oceans and seas around the world.
Why should you care? The answer to that has to do with carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. There are also viruses called coccolithoviruses that attack the coccolithophores. To protect themselves, they absorb carbon dioxide from the air and combine it with calcium to make shells of calcium carbonate–chalk. The White Cliffs of Dover are made of this chalk material that was produced by coccolithophores. In the process of protecting themselves, these organisms remove carbon dioxide from the air. It appears they may have been the agents that allowed oxygen to rise in our atmosphere to the level where animal life could exist.