Convergent Cenozoic CO2 history

Journal name:
Nature Geoscience
Year published:
Published online

Reconstructions of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations over the past 65 million years are heading towards consensus. It is time for systematic testing of the proxies, against measurements and against each other.

At a glance


  1. Earth's Cenozoic atmospheric CO2 history by proxy.
    Figure 1: Earth's Cenozoic atmospheric CO2 history by proxy.

    Deep-sea temperatures3 (upper panel) generally track the estimates of atmospheric CO2 (lower panel) reconstructed from terrestrial and marine proxies following recent revisions (see Supplementary Information). Errors represent reported uncertainties. Symbols with arrows indicate either upper or lower limits. The vertical grey bar on the right axis indicates glacial–interglacial CO2 range from ice cores. The top blue bar indicates approximate timing of ice-sheet development on Antarctica. Horizontal dashed line indicates the present-day atmospheric CO2 concentration (390 ppm).

  2. Fossil materials recording Earth's past CO2 history.
    Figure 2: Fossil materials recording Earth's past CO2 history.

    a, Fossil conifer cuticles from Metasequoia with stomata and epidermal cells; b, carbonate nodules; c, fossils soils known as palaeosols; and d, fossil foraminifera shells are all used to reconstruct past atmospheric CO2 levels. Metasequoia image courtesy of G. Doria, Yale University; palaeosol image courtesy of G. Bowen, Purdue University.


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Author information


  1. Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK

    • David J. Beerling
  2. Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and College of the Environment, Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut 06459, USA

    • Dana L. Royer

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