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

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network More

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.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs