The many scales of climate change, part 1: Tectonic timescales

The Contemplative Mammoth

When you study the climate of the deep past, time is relative. What one scientist may consider a long time — say, a decade — is only a short span of time to someone who routinely thinks in millions of years. Climate change is affected by processes operating at hours, millions of years, and everything in between. To complicate matters, some of the driving forces of climate operate in different directions on different timescales, so keeping everything straight isn’t trivial. This is the first in a series of posts explaining the timescales of climate change, from the scale of plate tectonics (millions of years) to sunspots (decades). Much of it borrows heavily from what I learned in a graduate course on Climates of the Past, which used William Ruddiman’s excellent book, Earth’s Climates, Past and Future. If you’re interested in reading beyond the simplified explanations here, I urge you to…

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