British scientists have discovered a period in geologic history where abrupt cooling occurred during a period of rapid warming. While the mechanism for this event approximately two million years ago remains unknown, the event happened very suddenly, and left the entire planet with a profoundly different weather system.
The struggle to survive the change is believed to have contributed to the evolution of the human species.
According to a report in the magazine Science, the event resulted in a dieback of the lush vegetation of the period, and must have triggered a desperate survival struggle among most species existing at the time, including early man.
Dr. Jeffrey Marlow of Newcastle University said, ": "People have been looking for a climate event that could explain what is seen in the geological record.
"We postulate that this dramatic cooling could be it. Up to two million years ago the vegetation across southern Africa was fairly rich and typical ofa temperate climate where evolutionary pressures were not that great.
"Then you get this sudden cooling. There's less evaporation from the sea, less rain, and you start to see a build up of savannah appearing.
"Resources become limited; food is harder to get and there's less tree cover, increasing the danger from wild animals. The hominids around thenwould have been under greater pressure to survive, and they would have switched from gathering to hunting."
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