Global Warming Causes of the Ice Age

Ice ages are when large areas of the surface of the earth are covered with continental glaciers, according to the Illinois State Museum. Global warming has been described as an increase in atmospheric and oceanic temperatures, resulting from the “greenhouse effect” and air pollution. Some see global warming as a major hoax, while others believe it will make Earth uninhabitable by either excessive heat or bringing on the next Ice Age.

  1. Previous Ice Ages

    • ISM notes that there have been a number of ice ages throughout the Earth's history, lasting from tens to hundreds of millions of years. “Glaciations” is the proper term for the shorter periods lasting only tens of thousands of years. When the word “Ice Age” is capitalized, it specifically refers to the last major “glaciation” that covering North America and Eurasia 16,000 thousand years ago. ISM further notes that if “ice age” is used to describe the “long intervals of 'glacial advance and retreat' then we are still in an ice age today. This is one of the short, warm periods that reoccur between glacial advances.

    Global Warming

    • Global warming is not a new phenomenon. The Earth has undergone a great many cooling and warming periods in its history. It wasn't until after World War II that technological advancements allowed scientists to investigate the “Greenhouse Effect,” a theory published by French scientist Joseph Fourier in 1824. They found that the atmosphere provides a “thermal blanket,” allowing the Earth to remain about thirty-degrees warmer than if the blanket did not exist. Beneficial gases such as “water vapor” and carbon dioxide serve as filters for the sun's dangerous short-wave radiation, transforming it into into less active long-wave radiation.

      Water vapor releases the radiation it captures back toward outer space. However, the carbon dioxide molecules send radiation back toward earth, recycling much of the heat that has a cumulative effect. Too much carbon dioxide throws off the Earth's “radiative equilibrium.” This imbalance was first coined as “global warming” by United Press International in 1969. The New York Times describes this as a “contentious phrase,” as more than four decades later the “global warming” debate has little consensus.

    Global Threat

    • Global warming was vilified in the 2004 movie “The Day After Tomorrow,” causing an ice age to sweep over the Northern Hemisphere. Geologist Lorraine Immoor, an Earth sciences educator and creator of GeoTeach.com, notes that global warming can bring about global cooling, “but not over several days as depicted in the movie.” The cooling process would take decades and not reach ice age status. She further notes that the Earth has gone through several ice ages followed by inter-glacial warming periods, however the cause of major periods of “glaciation” have been the result of major shifts in the Earth's axis.

    Climate Forcings

    • NASA describes “climate forcings” as destabilizing influences that alter the Earth's radiative equilibrium, forcing temperatures to rise or fall. Air pollution and deforestation are man-made climate forcings, while natural occurrences include solar flares and volcanic eruptions. Ohio State University reported on a 2009 study that revealed how a string of volcanic eruptions in the Atlantic sent lava “colliding” with North America to form the Appalachian mountains. The volcanic reactions occurred for about ten million years creating a “hothouse” with the earth covered in ash. During this time, the rock in the mountain range weathered, and chemical reactions pulled carbon dioxide from the air into the rock, forcing atmospheric levels of carbon to plummet when the volcanoes stopped erupting.

    Other Causes

    • A number of authorities including ISM do not believe that global warming is cause for any of the previous ice ages. ISM states that 'carbon dioxide is an important greenhouse gas,” its the reduction of carbon dioxide that leads to the climate cooling. The main causes for an ice are more likely due to the “wobbling” of the Earth on its axis and major shifts in the position of the axis and plate tectonics.

      NASA details how scientists started to analyze ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica. They noticed that evidence revealed rapid climate change over a ten year period. The ice cores revealed an increase in greenhouse house gas levels, primarily carbon dioxide. Scientists are trying to find the cause-and-effect of the climate change. Although causes of the ice ages are not fully understood, the theory of plate tectonics that causes continental drift, and examining changes in the Earth's axis, may provide more conclusive answers.

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