Climate scientists often use the last interglacial period as a reference point for predicting how rising temperatures will affect sea levels. The new results, the researchers write, will help scientists better predict how Earth’s oceans and climate will respond to modern warming. Warming 125,000 years ago raised sea levels 6 to 9 meters above present-day levels.
The global scale of that warming has been difficult to estimate. Chemical clues inside dozens of seafloor sediment samples collected from around the world provide only regional snapshots of the ancient climate. Combining 104 of these dispersed data points, climate scientist Jeremy Hoffman of Oregon State University in Corvallis and colleagues pieced together a global climate picture.
Average global sea surface temperatures around 125,000 years ago were indistinguishable from the 1995 to 2014 average, the researchers estimate.