Move over dendro, there’s a new ‘biomometer’ in town.
By now you’ve probably heard about the discovery of a GIANT FRICKING SNAKE (or Titanoboa cerrejonensis as it’s officially known) recently published in Nature. By examining fossilized vertebrae and rib bones and comparing them to their modern counterparts, a team led by Jason Head of the University of Toronto estimates the size of the snake to be 12.8 m long, weighing 1,135 kg. Abstract here, Nature’s own coverage of the story here [full paper here]. The size of the snake indicates that the tropical Paleogene (specifically Paleocene) was warmer (as much as 5°C – it depends largely on assumptions about current anaconda size) than today. This is warmer than some prior proxy-based estimates (e.g. here), and support recent modeling efforts which likewise found the tropics warmer than previously inferred.
Artist’s (and co-author’s?) rendering of Titanoboa cerrejonensis (click to embiggen)
As I’m sure we all remember, not so very long ago it was dendro proxies that drove the denialosphere to paroxysms, leading to the unwieldy epithet “treemometer” (e.g. here, here). Derisive comments about this discovery in the context of paleoclimate as informing the current climate change discussion can’t be far behind.
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One of the co-authors (Carlos Jaramillo) states that this finding has implications for current assumptions as to the viability of tropical rainforests under further anthropogenic warming, but I’m not sure there is enough meat in this study to back that assumption. Peter Cox and others have done extensive work indicating that the Amazon could be in trouble well before 5C degrees of warming are seen in the tropics.
[UPDATE: Looks like Dot Earth is collecting commentary on the study. I didn’t even think about using this story to further undermine Lindzen’s “iris”. Andy, you sly dog.]