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

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    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.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.