Earth and Environmental Sciences

Quaternary Climate changes and paleoecology
Weng Chengyu, Tongji University

Quaternary is the last period of the about 4.5 billion years of the earth history, spanning about last 2 million years. Quaternary is characterized by frequent and rapid climate changes (namely glacial-interglacial changes) and intensive human activities. In the Quaternary time, the earth experienced more than 20 glacial-interglacial cycles. During the glacial-interglacial cycles, the temperature of the earth surface could change from much colder than today (4-10 degrees during the last glacial time) to as warm as or even warmer than today, the contents of CO2 and CH4 also experienced almost simultaneous low-high-low cycles, and the sea level also changed from low altitude to high altitude. With the temperature changing, the bioecosystems on the earth responded. Vegetation zones shifted north- or south-ward latitudinally or up-down elevationally to adapt to the changing climate. Some species become extinct due to failure to fit the new environments. Human became more and more dominant in the world during the Quaternary. Human has changed landforms, burnt forests and buried fuels (coals and oil), and released a large quantity of greenhouse gases. As a result of intensive human activities, the climate system may have been influenced or altered greatly. In the recent century, even though it is still debatable, human is blamed for causing the current global warming by releasing too much greenhouse gases. It may be possible for us to learn a lesson about what the Earth’s future could be and what action we may take by looking back to the Quaternary history of the Earth.

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Earth and Environmental Sciences

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For additional symposium information, please visit our web site (nasonline.org/kfos).

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