A breviary of Earth’s climate changes using Stephan-Boltzmann law

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Guillermo Murray-Tortarolo


Earth’s surface temperature has oscillated greatly throughout time. From near total freezing during the “snowball Earth” (2.9) Ga to an ice-free world in the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum 55 (Ma). These changes have been forced by internal (e.g., changes in the chemical composition of the atmosphere) or external (e.g., changes in solar irradiance) drivers that varied through time. Thus, if we understand how the radiation budget evolved at different times, we can approximate past global climate, a fundamental comparison to situate current climate change in the context Earth’s history. Here I present an analytical framework employing a simple energy balance derived from the Stephan-Boltzmann law, that allows for quick comparison between drivers of global temperature at multiple times during the history of our planet. My results show that current rates of increase in global temperature are at least four times faster than any previous warming event.


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