Earth could be entering a new Ice Age within the next millennium, but it might not, the deep freeze averted by warming from increased carbon dioxide emissions. Humans could be thwarting the next glacial inception, a new study says.
Even in the comparatively long time scales of Earth history, we’re kind of overdue for another ice age — our current Holocene era has lasted about 11,600 years, roughly 600 years longer than the average interglacial (between-ice-age) periods of the past. If atmospheric CO2 levels were lower, the next ice age might have started sometime within the next 1,000 years, according to researchers from University College London and Cambridge University.Their conclusion is based in part on abrupt temperature changes in the overall temperature contrast between Greenland and Antarctica, according to a Cambridge news release. The North Atlantic would cool rapidly while Antarctica warms, fluctuations that would only happen if expanding ice sheets were calving icebergs huge enough to impact ocean circulation. These temperature see-saws can therefore be used to pinpoint the activation of a new ice age, a “glacial inception.”