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Paleo Slide Set: Polar Ice Cores
Vostok Climate Records
The Vostok core illustrated for the first time the strong correlation between paleotemperature and the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This figure shows how concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) have moved in tandem with paleotemperatures derived from the stable isotope record. The mechanisms of these relationships are poorly understood, and it is not known with any certainty whether increased temperatures are, to use an old paradox, the chicken or the egg. To what extent did increased temperatures bring about higher greenhouse gas concentrations? On the other hand, to what extent did higher greenhouse gases cause greater radiative warming of the Earth's atmosphere? To paleoclimatologists hoping to provide answers about global climate change (global warming), this has sparked intriguing scientific debate.

Photo Credits:
Todd Sowers
LDEO, Columbia University, Palisades, New York.
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Last Modified: 12 October 2001

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