The next ice age should have already started. Image Credit: CC 2.0 NASA Goddard
Man-made global warming is believed to have postponed the next ice age by several thousand years.
Our planet has endured multiple ice ages over the last few million years and the last one, which saw large areas of the northern hemisphere buried under glaciers, ended only around 12,000 years ago.
Ice ages tend to occur when the amount of solar radiation hitting our planet reaches a minimum threshold - something that happens every so often as the Earth's orbit around the sun changes.
The conditions would in fact be sufficient to initiate a new period of glaciation right now if it weren't for the fact that carbon emissions have been steadily increasing global temperatures.
"We are now in a period when our (northern) summer is furthest from the Sun," said Dr Andrey Ganopolski from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.
"Under normal circumstances, the interglacial would be terminated, and a new ice age would start. So, in principle, we are in the perfect conditions from an astronomical point of view. "
Instead, the scientists argue, we are likely to remain in a warm period for thousands of years.
"In theory, the next ice age could be even further into the future, but there is no real practical importance in discussing whether it starts in 50,000 or 100,000 years from now," said Ganopolski.
"The important thing is that it is an illustration that we have a geological power now. We can change the natural sequence of events for tens of thousands of years."
Source: BBC News | Comments (62)
Ice Age, Global Warming