The response of phanerozoic surface temperature to variations in atmospheric oxygen concentration

Rebecca C. Payne, Amber V. Britt, Howard Chen, James Kasting, David C. Catling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Recently, Poulsen et al. (2015) suggested that O2 has played a major role in climate forcing during the Phanerozoic. Specifically, they argued that decreased O2 levels during the Cenomanian stage of the middle Cretaceous (94-100 Ma) could help explain the extremely warm climate during that time. The postulated warming mechanism involves decreased Rayleigh scattering by a thinner atmosphere, which reduces the planetary albedo and allows greater surface warming. This warming effect is then amplified by cloud feedbacks within their 3-D climate model. This increase in shortwave surface forcing, in their calculations, exceeds any decrease in the greenhouse effect caused by decreased O2. Here we use a 1-D radiative-convective climate model (with no cloud feedback) to check their results. We also include a self-consistent calculation of the change in atmospheric ozone and its effect on climate. Our results are opposite to those of Poulsen et al.: we find that the climate warms by 1.4 K at 35% O2 concentrations as a result of increased pressure broadening of CO2 and H2O absorption lines and cools by 0.8 K at 10% O2 as a result of decreased pressure broadening. The surface temperature changes are only about 1 K either way, though, for reasonable variations in Phanerozoic O2 concentrations (10%-35% by volume). Hence, it seems unlikely that changes in atmospheric O2 account for the warm climate of the Cenomanian. Other factors, such as a higher-than-expected sensitivity of climate to increased CO2 concentrations, may be required to obtain agreement with the paleoclimate data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10,089-10,096
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research
Volume121
Issue number17
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

Fingerprint

Phanerozoic
surface temperature
climate
Climate models
Oxygen
oxygen
warming
climate models
Feedback
Greenhouse effect
pressure broadening
Rayleigh scattering
Ozone
climate modeling
Temperature
heating
greenhouse effect
climate forcing
paleoclimate
ozone

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Forestry
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Palaeontology

Cite this

Payne, Rebecca C. ; Britt, Amber V. ; Chen, Howard ; Kasting, James ; Catling, David C. / The response of phanerozoic surface temperature to variations in atmospheric oxygen concentration. In: Journal of Geophysical Research. 2016 ; Vol. 121, No. 17. pp. 10,089-10,096.
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The response of phanerozoic surface temperature to variations in atmospheric oxygen concentration. / Payne, Rebecca C.; Britt, Amber V.; Chen, Howard; Kasting, James; Catling, David C.

In: Journal of Geophysical Research, Vol. 121, No. 17, 01.01.2016, p. 10,089-10,096.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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