Warming trends in Earth History

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There was a warming period from the late Silurian through the early Devonian, and most of the Devonian was extremely warm; perhaps the warmest period in Earth’s history (not counting the hellish temperatures of the early Hadean or the Late Heavy Bombardment). So, in general, there was a warming trend from about 420 million years ago until about 470 million years ago, and then the climate remained warm, especially in the tropics and northern hemisphere, until well into the Carboniferous Period, although things got much colder, especially in the southern hemisphere, around 325 million years ago, in the second half of the Carboniferous (the late Carboniferous is also known as the Pennsylvanian).

Aside from some crazy climate 367-369 million years ago in the late Frasnian age of the Devonian period (multiple meteorite/comet strikes, probably an ice age or a series of them, massive loss of oxygen in the ocean surface, a major extinction event), the Devonian was like the Silurian, a time of tropical “hothouse” Earth. The climate contrasted to the much cooler Carboniferous and Permian periods, when ice ages and glaciers were the main climactic theme in most of the world’s landmasses (down in Gondwana) from the mid-Carboniferous through the mid-Permian. But, the earth heated up again later in the Mesozoic, and the late Cretaceous was about as warm as the Devonian. There was also a warm period in the Eocene, especially with a spike in temperatures known as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum at 55 million years ago being especially hot.

 

Links about the Paleozoic Climate and Warming Trends:

The University of California Museum of Paleontology has a good web page about the Devonian Period that mentions the climate.

Daniel Engber’s article from Popular Science answering a question about the hottest temperatures in Earth’s climate history.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has a web page by Michon Scott and Rebecca Lindsey also describing the warmest periods in Earth’s history.

Encyclopaedia Britannica has a fine article on the Devonian Period with significant discussion of the climate.

George R. McGhee, Jr. wrote a book published in 1996 that discusses the climate of the Devonian period with great detail: The Late Devonian Mass Extinction: The Frasnian/Famennian Crisis.

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