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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 1:02:27 PM , Rating: -1
@ JediJeb: I absolutely agree with you. Worst case scenario, humans will end up killing themselves . The planet will eventually rebuild itself. This time however, intelligent life is not guaranteed.

"The point you miss is that, for those early organisms, oxygen was a deadly poison. They killed themselves with their own pollution."
Interesting. However, it seems like oxygen was needed speed the evolution up a notch.

"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."
The plants are of course made that way (evolutionary) because of the CO2 levels in the atmosphere. Let the plants breed 100% oxygen and in 100 billion years, lets see who have the plants which grows best.

A little absurd, yes, my point being it seems like oxygen is way more valuable resource than CO2 for the organisms of the planet earth, maybe all life in general. Maybe it is different other places, but it may be that chemical properties of oxygen is just better for sustaining and evolving life than CO2.

"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 to call bullshit on this one. Volcanic activity has always let the CO2 out in the atmosphere again, sooner or later.
If not the life on the planet would have killed itself a long time ago. The carbon cycle is not dependent on life.

"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. "

I do not believe my skills to survive in the wilderness has anything to do with this discussion. Humans have had the ability to change our environment for a long time, and it's the ability which eventually made us (a little bit) different from other animals. It is the reason why we rule the earth. However, this time it seems like we have bit the lion in the ass. As this discussion proofs, our ability to understand mans impact and affect on the climate and the global environment is quite limited or at least very discussable due to all the variables.

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

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.

"Death Is Very Likely The Single Best Invention Of Life" -- Steve Jobs

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