Global warming disrupts natural patterns of glaciation

January 9th, 2012 - 10:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Jan 9 (IANS) Unprecedented levels of greenhouse gases are disrupting normal patterns of glaciation, setting back the process of the earth’s cooling as it did in its prehistoric past.

That may sound like good news, but it probably isn’t. “Ice sheets like those in western Antarctica are already destabilized by global warming,” said study co-author Jim Channell, professor of geology at the University of Florida.

“When they eventually slough off and become a part of the ocean’s volume, it will have a dramatic effect on sea level. Ice sheets will continue to melt until the next phase of cooling begins in earnest,” said Channell.

The data indicates that the next ice age will likely be delayed by tens of thousands of years, said researchers from University College London and Universities of Cambridge and Florida.

Current levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) are trapping too much heat in the atmosphere to allow the earth to cool as it has in its prehistoric past in response to changes in Earth’s orbital pattern.

Over the past million years, the earth’s CO2 levels, as recorded in ice core samples, have never reached more than 280 parts per million in the atmosphere. “We are now at 390 parts per million,” Channell said. The sudden spike has occurred in the last 150 years.

“We haven’t seen this high concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere for several million years,” Channell said. “All bets are off.”

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