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CLIMATE SCIENCE
In prehistory, CO2 and warming went in lock-step
by Staff Writers
Paris (AFP) Feb 28, 2013


Beijing residents bemoan smog and sandstorms
Beijing (AFP) Feb 28, 2013 - Beijing residents were urged to stay indoors Thursday as pollution levels soared before a sandstorm brought further misery to China's capital.

A thick blanket of smog covered large swathes of the country in the morning, causing residents to once again dig out face-masks as China's gruelling winter of pollution continues.

The noxious haze saw the US embassy's air quality index reading for Beijing hit 516 at 6am, signalling air quality worse than the highest classification of "hazardous".

Those who ventured out in mid-morning were confronted with swirling clouds of dust, which the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center said had been blown in from Inner Mongolia.

"We would hope that everyone stays indoors as much as possible and that people carry out appropriate measures for protection," the agency said in a posting on its verified account on Sina Weibo, China's version of Twitter.

State broadcaster China Central Television showed images of tree branches being blown onto Beijing's streets, and the newsreader urged residents to keep windows closed because of the risk of windows being blown out and showering pedestrians with glass.

The weather was also the subject of resigned discussion on China's Internet message boards, which attracted widespread anger in previous bouts of heavy smog.

"We have gone from toxic pollution to dust pollution," said one poster on Sina Weibo. "We lead a really varied life in Beijing."

Many parts of China have endured repeated episodes of toxic air in recent weeks, sparking demands for government action from both netizens and state media.

Air quality improved during the day, with the US Embassy index reaching 168 at 1pm.

Levels of carbon dioxide rose hand-in-hand with warming at the end of the last Ice Age, according to a study Thursday that deals a blow to climate skeptics.

French researchers said they had answered a riddle that has perplexed scientists.

The question arises from bubbles of atmospheric air, trapped in cores of ice drilled from Antarctica that date back to the last deglaciation, which ended some 10,000 years ago.

These tiny bubbles are closely scrutinised, for they contain carbon dioxide (CO2), the principal greenhouse gas behind global warming.

The higher or lower the CO2, according to the conventional benchmark, the greater or lower the atmospheric temperature.

The anomaly is this: the CO2 in the bubbles do not correspond to the level of warming indicated by the surrounding snowfall of that time.

Climate skeptics argued that this showed the CO2 rose after Earth's atmosphere warming.

It would thus imply that global warming today may come, at least in part, from natural means -- not from carbon emissions from fossil fuels as the scientific consensus maintains.

Writing in the US journal Science, a team led by French glaciologist Frederic Parrenin looked at ice from five deep drilling expeditions in Antarctica.

By analysing the isotopic composition of the nitrogen gas in these samples, the researchers said they were able to filter out the confusing signal from the data.

During the last deglaciation, the temperature rose by 19 degrees Celsius (34.2 degrees Fahrenheit) while at the same time CO2 levels in the atmosphere rose by about 100 parts per million, they said.

The discrepancy comes from the physical process by which CO2 bubbles are formed in successive layers of snow.

"The gas bubbles are always more recent than the ice that surrounds them," France's National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) said in a statement.

Further work will be carried out on different ice samples taken from different eras to see whether this result holds.

The researchers said the study did not examine the reasons for the rise in temperature that ushered in today's deglaciation.

There are several natural factors for global warming, including volcanic eruption and rock weathering that releases heat-trapping greenhouse gases, as well as modifications in heat from the Sun and tiny changes in Earth's axis and orbit.

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