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Dinosaurs' climate shifted too, reports show

as driven 566 meters into Shatsky Rise. Rocks freed by the drill were transported directly to the surface for analysis. The rocks corresponding to early Aptian time were extremely rich in organic material. By analyzing the carbon and nitrogen content of the samples, the geochemists found evidence for changes in carbon cycling and in nitrogen fixation by ocean biological communities associated with changing climate. A special analysis method targeting certain complex carbon-containing molecules provided values for a measurement called TEX86 that revealed mean temperature variations between 30 deg C (86 deg F) and 36 deg C (97 deg F) with two prominent cooling episodes of approximately 4 deg C (7 deg F) in tropical surface temperatures during the early Aptian. By comparison, today's tropical sea surface temperatures typically lie between 29 and 30 deg C.

Brassell says that findings of a changeable climate during the Cretaceous, a time period dominated by dinosaurs and noted for the spread of flowering plants, could influence the current climate change debate.

"One of the key challenges for us is trying to predict climate change," Brassell said. "If there are big, inherent fluctuations in the system, as paleoclimate studies are showing, it could make determining Earth's climatic future even harder than it is. We're learning our climate, throughout time, has been a wild beast."


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Contact: David Bricker
brickerd@indiana.edu
812-856-9035
Indiana University
23-Sep-2006


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