A team of American and Canadian researchers has found proof of global warming: the temperature of the Earth?s crust is increasing at a remarkable rate. ?We can now say we truly have global warming,? says Dr. Hugo Beltrami, a geophysicist at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia.

Until now most data on global warming has been obtained from the atmosphere, polar icecaps and oceans, but Beltrami?s team looked at continental rocks, which cover about 30% of the planet?s surface. They studied 616 deep bore holes that were drilled into rock formations from Africa to the Arctic and found evidence of a sharp rise in temperature over the past 500 years.

The surface of continental rocks are, on average, 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) warmer now than they were five centuries ago, and most of the warming has occurred since 1900, the scientists report. There is now about as much heat going into the Earth from the atmosphere as there is coming to the surface from the planet?s hot molten core.

The warming is most pronounced in northern latitudes. On Ellesmere Island and in Alaska, ground temperatures are 3to 4 degrees higher than they were in 1500. The rise is having a major effect on permafrost, turning some northern areas that were once perpetually frozen into ?several metres of muck,? Beltrami says. Beltrami and his colleagues from the University of Michigan found that more than half of the land?s heat gain over the past 500 years came during the 20th century, and 30% of it since 1950.

Beltrami says the historic temperature profile of bore holes is a more reliable reflection of warming trends than tree rings because heat absorbed from the atmosphere by rocks slowly permeates the Earth, leaving a distinct signature in the temperature profile of the rocks as it moves down. ?We can plot the heat actually going into the ground,? he says.Heat absorbed 100 years ago is now about 492 feet deep, and heat from 300 years ago is between 820-984 feet below ground, depending on the type of rock. They used bore holes that had been drilled by mining companies and geologists.

Scientists predict the warming will bring with it a rise in the number of ?extreme weather events? such as ice storms, droughts and hurricanes. Beltrami says, ?That?s what worries me the most.?

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