Ice age and climate change

Another ice age is coming

The earth has experienced an Ice Age enduring for tens of thousands of years. But climate change is reversing to the ice age due to the changing atmospheric absorption of CO2. Climate change is gradually setting a pace in the earth’s atmosphere, the onset of another ice age. 

Concept of the Ice Age

  • Ice Age tends to a slow transition into a colder climate for a prolonged period. The change in the climatic condition is attributed to the climate change scenario. 
  • Scholars have indicated that the earth is on a repeatable cycle. So gradually the earth will change from a warmer place to a colder one, say the advent of the Ice Age. 
  • Currently, we are in an interglacial state. The climate change phenomenon is accelerating the gradual conversion into the ice age. 
  • Ice Age can happen if the Arctic region of the earth receives minimum summer sunlight. It can happen due to astronomical events like changes in the rotational axis of the earth or changes in the shape of the earth’s elliptical orbit. 
  • The Ice Age cycle is global and the phenomenon can be evident in both the hemisphere. It has the potential to affect the share of ice over water bodies and lands. The sort of climate change can use the incidence of ice on the atmospheric temperatures, ocean temperatures, and circulation at the surface and greater depth.  

Milankovitch Cycles on predicting another ice age

Another ice age in the fray

Milankovitch cycle predicting a future ice age

  • A Serbian scientist, Dr. Milutin Milankovitch in 1938 developed the concept of orbital shifts of the earth that can lead to another ice age. Originally, James Croll developed the concept of the ice age in the late 19th century. 
  • The earth experienced several instances in the past ranging across million years wherein big chunks of continental ice sheets were dominant in the northern hemisphere. 
  • The preceding ice ages led to a drop in the earth’s temperature at an average of -4C or lower. The higher latitudes were much colder than the lower ones. 
  • The ice ages are characterized by ‘interglacial’ periods as the temperature rises above the current levels. The last ice age was between 120,000 to 11,500 years ago.
  • The current interglacial period is the Holocene. Studies anticipate that the current interglacial period will last over a surplus of tens of thousands of years before plunging into another ice age.  
  • Human intervention is mention-worthy in this case. The intervention of humans can further delay the beginning of another ice age on earth. 
  • The ice age cycle is influenced by periodic changes in the elliptical orbit of the earth. Milankovitch stated that the changes in the distribution of the solar energy received on earth will affect its temperature and gradually push towards another ice age.

Greenhouse gases on climate change and another ice age

  • Greenhouse gases play a significant role in accelerating the process of climate change. Similarly, such elements, particularly CO2 will also play an important role in exerting cold conditions during the ice ages, even in the lower latitudes. 
  • Studies by the US National Academy of Sciences and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that there is a direct correlation between the changes in temperature and CO2. The latter will raise the colder aspect during the ice ages while making it warmer during the interglacial period. 

Another ice age in the fray

  Ice age is the imminent future

Lags and leads on ice age

  • CO2 is considered the apparent reason for lagging temperatures while deglaciation at the end of the ice age. 
  • There were no human interventions during the ice age to influence climate change. It shows that the changes in orbit lead to changes in the climate like CO2 playing its part.  
  • CO2 has lagged the temperatures during deglaciation by 600-1,000 years. So CO2 has a big role in contemplating climate change in the ice age and even in contemporary times, it is playing a similar role. 

Synopsis on climate change and ice age

Milankovitch pointed out that the ice age is a natural phenomenon that will take place due to astronomical changes. Climate change will lead to another ice age but humans can delay the process by a substantial time. CO2 has been a poignant element in making the changes in the earth’s climate during the ice age and continues to do so now as well.       

By Shuvendu Modak


Tags: climate




  2. Sindhu

    very nice information

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