Human climate influence means we're skipping an ice age


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MIGUEL MEDINA via Getty Images
MIGUEL MEDINA via Getty Images

According to a new study published in Nature, human-generated climate change -- specifically the massive additions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere -- is causing the Earth to effectively delay the start of the next ice age by 100,000 years. Typically, ice ages occur once every 50,000 years or so; as they have in at least eight regularly intervalled times in the Earth's history.

The study's lead author, Andrey Ganopolski, and his team employed an advanced computer model incorporating atmospheric, oceanic, ice sheet and carbon emission data to simulate the effects of humanity's CO2 emissions on the volume of ice in the Northern Hemisphere. What they found was not reassuring. "Even without man-made climate change we would expect the beginning of a new ice age no earlier than in 50.000 years from now - which makes the Holocene as the present geological epoch an unusually long period in between ice ages," Ganopolski said in a statement. "However, our study also shows that relatively moderate additional anthropogenic CO2-emissions from burning oil, coal and gas are already sufficient to postpone the next ice age for another 50,000 years. The bottom line is that we are basically skipping a whole glacial cycle, which is unprecedented."

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