News / Science & Technology

    Global Warming Could Delay Next Ice Age

    Glacial melting threatens those living close to sea level

    Polar ice sheets in Greenland (pictured above) and Antarctica are losing mass at an accelerated rate and will add significantly to sea level rise.
    Polar ice sheets in Greenland (pictured above) and Antarctica are losing mass at an accelerated rate and will add significantly to sea level rise.

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Rosanne Skirble

    The next ice age could be delayed by tens of thousands of years due to excessive amounts of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which disrupts Earth’s natural cycle of warming and cooling, according to a study in Nature Geoscience.



    Jim Channell analyzed ice core and marine sediment data from one million years of geologic history.

    Channell, a distinguished professor of geology at the University of Florida, says one period, around 780,000 years ago, is remarkably like our own.

    “It looks very similar because the orbital characteristics of the Earth, which is known from astronomers, is a dead ringer for the orbital states that we have today. And we can use that as an analog to say, 'When will our interglacial state, which we’re in right now, go into the next glacial period?'”

    Those orbital features - how the Earth revolves around the sun, the shape of its orbit, the tilt and wobble of the Earth on its axis - undergo long, cyclical changes. Those changes directly affect the amount of radiation we receive from the sun, which in turn affects the Earth’s climate.

    Based on these natural cycles, our current warming period should end within 1,500 years. Channell says what’s different from 780,000 years ago is that CO2 levels in the atmosphere back then were 240 parts per million, compared with 390 parts per million today.  

    “And so we can be fairly sure that we have, whether we like it or not, delayed the possibility that we will revert from our present interglacial into a glacial state.”

    Channell says the findings underscore the dramatic effect of CO2 - released by the burning of fossil fuels in our cars, power plants and buildings - on the Earth’s natural climatic systems.

    The University of Florida geologist adds that the orbital characteristics of Earth - which control the amount of radiation our planet receives from the Sun and which, over millions of years, have controlled the climate on Earth, are “no match,” he says, “for the excessive levels of CO2 in our atmosphere.”

    Cooling that would naturally occur in response to changes in the Earth’s solar orbit simply cannot keep up.  

    While a delayed ice age may sound like good news, Channell says, it isn’t.  

    The high concentration of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is beginning to destabilize ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica.

    “Once you slough off the continental ice into the ocean, of course the consequence is sea level rise," said Channell.

    "And it’s not being, I think, over-dramatic to say that considering the proportion of the world’s population that lives close to sea level, the implications of this sort of accelerated sea level rise are enormous.”

    Channel says those ice sheets are expected to continue to melt until the next phase of cooling begins. And when that will be is now in serious doubt.

    You May Like

    Self-doubt, Cultural Barriers Hinder Cambodian Women in Tech

    Longtime Cambodian tech observer Sok Sikieng says that although more women have joined profession in recent years, there remain significant factors hindering women from reaching tech potential

    Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to Boost European Energy Security

    $4.5 billion-pipeline will become operational in 2020 and will deliver gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field to southern Italy

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Annual festival showcases the region's harvested agriculture, fine wines and offers opportunities to experience the gentle breeze in a hot air balloon flight

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora