Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Department of


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Published in Science, vol. 315. no. 5808 (January 5, 2007), pp. 87 - 91; doi: 10.1126/science.1134207 Copyright © 2007 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Used by permission.


The late Paleozoic deglaciation is the vegetated Earth’s only recorded icehouse-to-greenhouse transition, yet the climate dynamics remain enigmatic. By using the stable isotopic compositions of soil-formed minerals, fossil-plant matter, and shallow-water brachiopods, we estimated atmospheric partial pressure of carbon dioxide (pCO2) and tropical marine surface temperatures during this climate transition. Comparison to southern Gondwanan glacial records documents covariance between inferred shifts in pCO2, temperature, and ice volume consistent with greenhouse gas forcing of climate. Major restructuring of paleotropical flora in western Euramerica occurred in step with climate and pCO2 shifts, illustrating the biotic impact associated with past CO2-forced turnover to a permanent icefree world.