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NOAA Website on Climate: Earth’s Hottest Period Occurred Before Man Existed

Penny Starr
By Penny Starr | December 15, 2015 | 3:10 PM EST

In this Tuesday Aug, 16, 2005 file photo an iceberg melts in Kulusuk, Greenland near the arctic circle. (AP Photo/John McConnico, File)

The global climate change agreement adopted at the United Nation’s conference in Paris is making headlines, but a federal government website dedicated to weather makes the case that the warmest time on Earth happened before mankind existed, and in fact, it was at one time so hot that crocodiles lived among palm trees in the Arctic Circle.

An Aug. 12, 2014 article posted on climate.gov and titled, “What’s The Hottest The Earth’s Ever Been,” stated, “Earth’s hottest periods—the Hadean, the late Neoproterozoic, the PETM—occurred before humans existed.” It added, “Those ancient climates would have been like nothing our species has ever seen.”

The article noted that the Arctic Circle was once a tropical hot spot:

“Stretching from about 66-34 million years ago, the Paleocene and Eocene were the first geologic epochs following the end of the Mesozoic Era. (The Mesozoic—the age of dinosaurs—was itself an era punctuated by ‘hothouse’ conditions.)

Geologists and paleontologists think that during much of the Paleocene and early Eocene, the poles were free of ice caps, and palm trees and crocodiles lived above the Arctic Circle. The transition between the two epochs around 56 million years ago was marked by a rapid spike in global temperature.”

In its earliest days “when [Earth] was still colliding with other rocky debris,” the temperature was “upward of 3,600 degree Fahrenheit,” the article noted.

During the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, or PETM, “the global temperature appears to have risen by as much as 5-8 degrees” Centigrade (9 to 14 degrees Fahrenheit), the article stated. (Note: the Paris climate change agreement is designed to stop Earth’s temperature from rising 2 degrees Fahrenheit, an increase caused by human activity, according to the U.N.)

In fact, according to climate.gov, the weather since man has been around had been marked by “climate stability.”

“Modern human civilization, with its permanent agriculture and settlements, has developed over just the past 10,000 years or so,” it stated. “The period has generally been one of low temperatures and relative global (if not regional) climate stability.”

Turns out, the Earth was also really cold a long time ago:

“Between 600 and 800 million years ago—a period of time geologists call the Neoproterozoic—evidence suggests the Earth underwent an ice age so cold that ice sheets not only capped the polar latitudes, but may have extended all the way to sea level near the equator.”

Climate.gov is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA.