Celestial driver of Phanerozoic climate?

Nir J. Shaviv*, Ján Veizer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

215 Scopus citations


Atmospheric levels of CO2 are commonly assumed to be a main driver of global climate. Independent empirical evidence suggests that the galactic cosmic ray flux (CRF) is linked to climate variability. Both drivers are presently discussed in the context of daily to millennial variations, although they should also operate over geological time scales. Here we analyze the reconstructed seawater paleotemperature record for the Phanerozoic (past 545 m.y.), and compare it with the variable CRF reaching Earth and with the reconstructed partial pressure of atmospheric CO2 (pCO2). We find that at least 66% of the variance in the paleotemperature trend could be attributed to CRF variations likely due to solar system passages through the spiral arms of the galaxy. Assuming that the entire residual variance in temperature is due solely to the CO2 greenhouse effect, we propose a tentative upper limit to the long-term "equilibrium" warming effect of CO2, one which is potentially lower than that based on general circulation models.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)4-10
Number of pages7
JournalGSA Today
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2003


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