6 08 2009
From an Oregon State University Media Release (h/t to Leif Svalgaard)
Long debate ended over cause, demise of ice ages – may also help predict future
The above image shows how much the Earth’s orbit can vary in shape.
This process in a slow one, taking roughly 100,000 to cycle.
(Credit: Texas A&M University note: illustration is not to scale)
CORVALLIS, Ore. – A team of researchers says it has largely put to rest a long debate on the underlying mechanism that has caused periodic ice ages on Earth for the past 2.5 million years – they are ultimately linked to slight shifts in solar radiation caused by predictable changes in Earth’s rotation and axis.
In a publication to be released Friday in the journal Science, researchers from Oregon State University and other institutions conclude that the known wobbles in Earth’s rotation caused global ice levels to reach their peak about 26,000 years ago, stabilize for 7,000 years and then begin melting 19,000 years ago, eventually bringing to an end the last ice age.
The melting was first caused by more solar radiation, not changes in carbon dioxide levels or ocean temperatures, as some scientists have suggested in recent years.