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Can we expect an ice age to start every 36,500,000 days or so?

While the battle for what's right and wrong roars on concerning climate change as a whole, it seems that many small observations are left to collect dust while politicians and activists concentrate on their own immediate problems. It can seem overwhelming at times when science-fact is pushed into a corner because it doesn't help support a growingly concerned (or unconcerned) community. Nevertheless, these data and observations are important in the long term to help climate scientists and geologists understand how the Earth changes over millennia and how those changes are affecting the current climate.

Some great finds have made their way into 
DailyTech's news reel already this year. In January, the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research published findings that suggested tiny geological formations could be responsible for regulating the entire North American region. In February, researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute released data that suggested Greenland's rapid glacial retreat is being at least marginally affected by warm subtropical waters making their way along currents all the way into the country's fjords. These findings suggest that at least one part of the northern hemisphere's climate is controlled more than partially by ocean systems.

This week, University of California, Santa Barbara geologist Lorraine Lisiecki has presented information linking long-term climate cycles more closely with Earth's ~100,000 year orbital cycle. And not only does the information suggest quite clearly that ice ages are an effect of these cycles, it shows that how adversely the orbit changes inversely affects the climate change. The idea that the planet's orbit is a large or ultimate factor in the rise and fall of ice ages is not new, however, the study shows a very strong connection between hard data and theory.

"The clear correlation between the timing of the change in orbit and the change in the Earth's climate is strong evidence of a link between the two. It is unlikely that these events would not be related to one another," explains Lisiecki.

The data correlates the climate change to two different aspects of the Earth's orbit around the sun as well as its own rotational oscillations. The first is the Earth's orbital eccentricity, or how elliptical/circular the orbit is. The second is its inclination, or the angle of its path compared to the solar orbital mean. The planet's rotational precession, or how the planet wobbles around its own rotational axis, is the third contributing factor in Lisiecki's study.

While this evidence strongly suggest patterns of climate due to local astronomy, Lisiecky does not solely attribute the cyclical changes to her findings. She stresses that these kinds of total climate changes are most likely a complicated interplay between the astronomical system and the Earth's own weather and more immediate systems. Further, the inverse relationship between the strength of climate change and the change in orbital pattern suggest that the overall system simply isn't that easy to decipher.

Lisiecki used climate data for the last 1.2 million years collected from 57 separate ocean sediment cores in her study. With this data she discovered the correlation between orbit and climate. Her full findings have been published in this week's edition of 
Nature Geoscience.



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RE: Common sense
By todda7 on 4/7/2010 11:42:26 AM , Rating: -1
These cycles have been using quite some time, but still within the extreme, quite different from before the dawn of life. As you say, there was no/little oxygen. The dawn of life eventually changed that. As for now, it seems that more oxygen in the atmosphere allows life to evolve more. I cannot understand how doing the exact opposite, as humans are currently doing, is going to help to evolve life. You say the CO2 levels were 20 times higher, which is true. This is however a) before the propagation of organisms with efficient photo-synthesis or b) due to volcano activity, solar variation etc. The cycle of ice ages is of course affected by the climate which was drastically changed by the organisms with photo-synthesis. The weather system, affecting the geological cycle, has also been affected. The fact that our climate has its cycles but other than that only slowly changes over time, makes it quite stable (maybe not by definition, but you get my point).

Of course "using" resources is the wrong term. They aren't going anywhere. However, by the time another "intelligent" species where to evolve there would a) no time for the resources (oil, coal, etc) to have done the cycle and once again be "easy accessible" b) the sun to hot and no semi-intelligent species could live there.

Of course half of the face of the face of the planet is not covered in concrete or asphalt, by all means. But I have yet to see a place not affected by the rise of the modern civilization.


RE: Common sense
By JediJeb on 4/7/2010 12:05:42 PM , Rating: 4
quote:
Of course half of the face of the face of the planet is not covered in concrete or asphalt, by all means. But I have yet to see a place not affected by the rise of the modern civilization.


Why is it then when you look at a satellite map of the earth you see mostly green where the land masses are instead of black asphalt or white concrete? I think you are confusing 50% with something more like 0.001% as being covered with concrete and asphalt. Come live where I do and you will see the ratio of concrete and asphalt to grass is about 10,000 grass to 1 concrete/asphalt, and I live in a small town, not out in a complete nowhere.

It is people who look out their window and see a parking lot and assume that the world is covered in man made materials who are the same ones freaking out about a fraction of a degree warming that is probably more caused by natural forces than human forces and yet want humans to disappear from the planet so it will "survive". Unless another planet smashes into earth or the sun explodes, the planet will survive, humans may not but the planet will. Mankind should be focused more on how to adapt and flow with the changes in the planet than trying to make it stop changing because we don't want to lose our happy place in climate history we have become acclimated to.


RE: Common sense
By porkpie on 4/7/2010 12:12:04 PM , Rating: 2
"As you say, there was no/little oxygen. The dawn of life eventually changed that"

The point you miss is that, for those early organisms, oxygen was a deadly poison. They killed themselves with their own pollution.

" You say the CO2 levels were 20 times higher, which is true. This is however a) before the propagation of organisms with efficient photo-synthesis "

Lol, what? Please read about the Carboniferous Period please. It was the richest, most biologically diverse period in earth's history...and plant photosynthesis was no different than it is today.

CO2 drives plant growth, period. In fact, modern commercial greenhouses artificially boost CO2 levels to about 1,200 ppm (over 3X current levels) to help plants grow better.

Had mankind not come along and reversed the process, eventually all life on the planet would have killed itself off, by consuming all the free CO2.

"I have yet to see a place not affected by the rise of the modern civilization."

If you think that's a bad thing, I suggest you try living in the wilderness alone for a few years. Without any clothes, tools, or fancy high-tech camping gear.

Our ability to change the environment for our benefit is what we should be most proud of. Ignorant scientific illiterates think its something to be ashamed of.


RE: Common sense
By sigilscience on 4/7/2010 12:30:20 PM , Rating: 2
omg, how fast can you churn out these posts?


RE: Common sense
By porkpie on 4/7/2010 12:33:44 PM , Rating: 2
Typing 100+ wpm helps ... I'm actually posting to 2 other sites at the moment as well :)


RE: Common sense
By Anoxanmore on 4/7/2010 3:21:26 PM , Rating: 2
Porkpie is one of the slowest typists I know ; - ) <3


RE: Common sense
By todda7 on 4/7/10, Rating: -1
RE: Common sense
By porkpie on 4/7/2010 1:12:59 PM , Rating: 4
"Let the plants breed 100% oxygen and in 100 billion years, lets see who have the plants which grows best."

Err, we're talking about plant life today, Sparky. The plants we depend on for all life on earth require CO2...and they would thrive if CO2 levels were much higher than are today.

"it seems like oxygen is way more valuable resource than CO2 for the organisms of the planet earth, maybe all life in general."

"Way more"? If you understood biology, you would realize the opposite. CO2 is far more essential than oxygen, even ignoring life such as anaerobes. And even among organisms that require oxygen, free O2 is a dangerous poison, that causes severe organ damage.

"How long do you think we humans can live the way we do today?"

Forever. In fact, there's every reason to believe that, in 100 years, our standard of living (and our per-capita energy and rsource consumption) will be far higher than it is today.


RE: Common sense
By todda7 on 4/7/10, Rating: -1
RE: Common sense
By clovell on 4/7/2010 5:44:39 PM , Rating: 3
OP, Calvin Cycle fail.


RE: Common sense
By todda7 on 4/8/2010 9:36:04 AM , Rating: 1
Why would we need photo-synthesis if the atmosphere was 100% oxygen? Given that we got our food from somewhere else.


RE: Common sense
By porkpie on 4/8/2010 10:46:49 AM , Rating: 2
Now you're failing basic thermodynamics. If life doesn't get its energy from the sun, where would it come from? Other than nuclear power, there is no other ultimate source.


RE: Common sense
By clovell on 4/9/2010 5:27:32 PM , Rating: 2
Because I like Tomatoes on my pizza. Seriously, a 100% O2 atmosphere? You just killed all plant life on the planet. Let's see how long we all last.


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