Photo: Five hundred years of climate data from sources such as coral was used in the study (Eric Matson/Australian Institute of Marine Studies)
- Climate from past 500 years reconstructed using modelling and natural data
- Warming began in 1830s in Arctic and tropical oceans, just 80 years after Industrial Revolution started
- Impact of warming in southern hemisphere only became clearly evident around 1960
Human-induced global warming began as early as the 1830s just as the Industrial Revolution was gaining steam, a new study shows.
The “surprise” finding suggests the industrialisation of society had an impact on Earth’s temperatures faster than previously thought.
And according to Associate Professor Nerilie Abram of the Australian National University (ANU), the finding also has implications for our understanding of the future impact of human activity on the climate.
The international study, published today in Nature, used detailed reconstructions of climate across the past 500 years to determine when the current warming trend began.
Dr Abram, from ANU’s Research School of Earth Sciences and ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, said anthropogenic climate change was generally thought of as a 20th century phenomenon because direct measurements of climate are rare before the 1900s.
However their study had detected warming in the Arctic and tropical oceans from around the 1830s, just 80 years after the Industrial Revolution started in England.
“It was an extraordinary finding,” she said. “It was one of those moments where science really surprised us. But the results were clear. The climate warming we are witnessing today started about 180 years ago.”