Pliocene Hurricaines

The Pliocene epoch is the period in the geologic timescale that extends from 5 million to 2 million years before present. Although scientists know that the early Pliocene had carbon dioxide concentrations similar to those of today, it has remained a mystery what caused the high levels of greenhouse gas and how the Pliocene’s warm conditions, including an extensive warm pool in the Pacific Ocean and temperatures that were roughly 4 degrees C higher than today’s, were maintained.

In a paper published February 25 in Nature, Kerry Emanuel and two colleagues from Yale University’s Department of Geology and Geophysics suggest that a positive feedback between tropical cyclones — commonly called hurricanes and typhoons — and the circulation in the Pacific could have been the mechanism that enabled the Pliocene’s warm climate.

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