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South Coast researcher says past global warming could provide key information on current situation

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UCSB
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UCSB Paleoclimatologist Syee Weldeab (right) collecting an ocean floor sediment sample as he studies a past global warming event.

UC Santa Barbara paleoclimatologist looks at past natural global warming events to see what we might be able to learn about the current manmade crisis.

We know global warming is causing a number of issues for the planet, and has the potential to cause catastrophic problems.

But, researchers say Earth has seen past episodes of climate changing warming. While the past events weren’t man-made, a UC Santa Barbara scientist says they may provide important clues about potential impacts from our current situation.

Syee Weldeab is a UCSB Paleoclimatology Professor.

"I study the climate change of the past... I study the climate archives," said Weldeab. "How do you decipher it? I use trace elements, isotopes, chemical fingerprints."

He said while the triggers behind past warming episodes are different, because they weren’t man-made, we still may be able to learn about what could occur from what happened back then.

"We can look back in time, and learn about processes which can happen," said Weldeab. "They don't have to happen in the same way, but we can learn about the mechanisms."

The UCSB researcher talked about the detective work they did to learn about a specific past global warming episode. He said they examined marine sediment samples from the Equatorial Atlantic.

Weldeab said about a year and a half of work went into the study, which was just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. He said they are hoping to do followup work in other parts of the world, to see if they find similar results from past warming episodes.

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UCSB
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UCSB Paleoclimatologist Syee Weldeab examines an ocean floor sediment sample as part of his research looking at ancient global warming events, to help us better understand what is happening now.

And remember, significant changes in ocean water temperatures can have huge consequences. El Ninos and La Ninas, which can contribute to flash flooding and drought, are the creation of major water temperature changes.

The UCSB researcher emphasizes the findings may not tell us exactly what to expect, but it can give us some ideas of things to watch.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.