Climate Change Timeline


Fourier calculates that the Earth would be colder if it lacked an atmosphere.


Tyndall demonstrates that some gases block infrared radiation, and notes that changes in the concentration of the gases could bring climate change.


International Meteorological Organization begins to compile and standardize global weather data, including temperature.


Chamberlin produces a model for global carbon exchange including feedbacks.


Opening of Texas and Persian Gulf oil fields inaugurates era of cheap energy.
1930s - Global warming trend since late 19th century reported.


Phillips produces a convincing computer model of the global atmosphere. =>Models (GCMs)


Ewing and Donn offer a feedback model for abrupt climate change.


Telescope studies show a greenhouse effect raises temperature of the atmosphere of Venus far above the boiling point of water.


Mitchell reports downturn of global temperatures since the early 1940s
The CO2 level is 315 ppm. Mean global temperature (five-year average) is 13.9°C.


Boulder, Colorado meeting on causes of climate change: Lorenz and others point out the chaotic nature of the climate system and the possibility of sudden shifts.


Emiliani’s analysis of deep-sea cores and Broecker’s analysis of ancient corals show that the timing of ice ages was set by small orbital shifts, suggesting that the climate system is sensitive to small perturbations.


Studies suggest a possibility of collapse of Antarctic ice sheets, which would raise sea levels catastrophically.


Budyko and Sellers present models of catastrophic ice-albedo feedbacks.

Nimbus III satellite begins to provide comprehensive global atmospheric temperature measurements. =>Government


Ice cores and other evidence show big climate shifts in the past between relatively stable modes in the space of a thousand years or so, especially around 11,000 years ago.

1972: Droughts in Africa, Ukraine, India cause world food crisis, spreading fears about climate change.


Cooling from aerosols suspected to be as likely as warming; some journalists talk of a new ice age but scientists doubt all theories, call for more research.

1979: US National Academy of Sciences report finds it highly credible that doubling CO2 will bring 1.5-4.5°C global warming


Hansen and others show that sulfate aerosols can significantly cool the climate, raising confidence in models that incorporate aerosols and show future greenhouse warming.


Greenland ice cores reveal drastic temperature oscillations in the space of a century in the distant past.
1982: Strong global warming since mid-1970s is reported, with 1981 the warmest year on record.


Speculation over catastrophic climate change following a nuclear war, or a dinosaur-killing asteroid strike, promote realization of the atmosphere’s fragility.

1986: Meltdown of reactor at Chernobyl (Soviet Union) cripples plans to replace fossil fuels with nuclear power.


Montreal Protocol of the Vienna Convention imposes international restrictions on emission of ozone-destroying gases.


Fossil-fuel and other U.S. industries form Global Climate Coalition to persuade politicians and the public that climate science is too uncertain to justify action.


Mt. Pinatubo explodes; Hansen predicts cooling pattern, verifying (by 1995) computer models of aerosol effects.


Global warming skeptics claim that 20th-century temperature changes followed from solar influences. (The solar-climate correlation would fail in the following decade.)
1991: Geologists discover massive extinction event 55 million years ago, associated with tremendous warming caused by increase in greenhouse gases. =>Rapid change