Thursday, November 13, 2008

Permanent Ice Age vs. Global Warming?

Scientists in Britain and Canada have released findings suggesting that geological evidence supports a model of long-term climate change in which the cycle of ice ages and 'nice ages' - if you will - could break down and settle into a permanent ice age, in which much of the earth's surface, especially in the northern hemisphere, would be covered in mega-glaciers.

For billions of years, the composition of the atmosphere and the nature of the earth's shifting orbit has resulted in periodic climate shifts, like geologic seasons, alternating between deep freezes and ice-free worlds. Within these extremes are relatively subtler shifts in which ice ebbs and flows from the poles. The mechanics and timing of these shifts are still being studied, but geologists are confident that the last ice age peaked around 20,000 years ago, and around 10,000 years ago, the world and its animal species looked much as does today . . . minus the changes that 6 billion people brought to the planet since then. What the recent study is now suggesting is that sometime in the next 10,000 to 100,000 years a major, permanent ice age will begin, and their models don't extend long enough to see beyond it.

Ironically, more greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere 100,000 years or so from now could be a good thing. The researchers were quick to point out that the rate at which we were pumping greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere at the moment is dangerous and that they were not advocating for continuing to pollute the atmosphere.

(Thank you to Travel Wisconsin for the image.)