Geological Perspectives of Global Climate Change: Introduction and Overview

Geological Perspectives of Global Climate Change: Introduction and Overview

Global climate has varied since the most primitive atmosphere developed on earth billions of years ago. This variation in climate has occurred on all timescales and has been continuous. The sedimentary rock record reflects numerous sea-level changes, atmospheric compositional changes, and temperature changes, all of which attest to climatic variation. Such evidence, as well as direct historical observations, clearly shows that temperature swings occur in both directions. Past climates have varied from those that create continental glaciers to those that yield global greenhouse conditions. Many people do not comprehend that this means their living climate also varies—it gets warmer or cooler—but typically does not remain the same for extended periods of time. Human history shows us that in general, warmer conditions have been beneficial, and colder conditions have been less kind to society (Lamb, 1995). We currently are living in a not-yet-completed interglacial stage, and it is very likely that warmer conditions lie ahead for humanity, with or without any human interference. Interglacial stages appear to last for about 11,000 years, but with large individual variability. We have been in this interglacial for about 10,000 years.

From the general introductory comments to Geological Perspectives of Global Climate Change: Introduction and Overview a monograph by Lee C. Gerhard and William E. Harrison of the Kansas Geological Survey, Lawrence, Kansas, U.S.A and the late B.M. Hanson, an independent petroleum producer. Adapted for online presentation of the article with the same title by the same authors in AAPG Studies in Geology No. 47, entitled “Geological Perspectives of Global Climate Change,” now available from AAPG’s online bookstore (http://bookstore.aapg.org) and online directly from the AAPG Datapages.