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Dinosaur days
Image: Alexander Lovegrove

Events 94 million years ago suggest a dangerous future

Ninety-four million years ago, Earth experienced warming similar – but much slower – than today.  So changes that occurred then hold clues to the fate that awaits humanity in the (relatively) near future.

In a new study published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Assistant Professor of Geology Jeremy Owens explains the way parts of the ocean became inhospitable to several key organisms at the base of the food chain.  As the Earth warmed, several natural elements – what we think of as vitamins – depleted, causing some organisms to die off or greatly decrease in numbers.

As these plant organisms died, oceans and seas around the world experienced oxygen starvation leading to huge “dead zones” in which nothing could live.  Given humanity’s dependence upon fish and other marine animals, were this to happen today the impacts would be catastrophic.

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