The scientists said their data showed that significantly warmer periods and significantly colder periods had occurred during the last interval between glacial epochs, about 115,000 to 135,000 years ago. They said they could not tell whether that meant similar changes were in store. Their findings were reported today in two papers in the journal Nature. […]
The new studies found that the average global temperature can change as much as 18 degrees Fahrenheit in a couple of decades during interglacial periods, [Dr. J. W. C. White of the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research of the University of Colorado] said. The current average global temperature is 59 degrees Fahrenheit. …
At one point between the last two glacial epochs, the climate melted enough polar ice to raise sea levels some 30 feet. As noted by a member of the drilling team, Dr. David A. Peel of the British Antarctic Survey, it was so warm in England that hippopotamuses wallowed in the Thames and lions roamed its banks….
In his commentary, Dr. White wrote: "We humans have built a remarkable socioeconomic system during perhaps the only time when it could be built, when climate was sufficiently stable to allow us to develop the agricultural infrastructure required to maintain an advanced society. We don’t know why we have been so blessed, but even without human intervention, the climate system is capable of stunning variability.