- 11th January 2012
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Human emissions of carbon dioxide will defer the next Ice Age, say scientists.
The last Ice Age ended about 11,500 years ago, and when the next one should begin has not been entirely clear.
Researchers used data on the Earth’s orbit and other things to find the historical warm interglacial period that looks most like the current one.
The journal Nature Geoscience, writes that the next Ice Age would begin within 1,500 years – but emissions have been so high that it will not.
“At current levels of CO2, even if emissions stopped now we’d probably have a long interglacial duration determined by whatever long-term processes could kick in and bring [atmospheric] CO2 down,” said Luke Skinner from Cambridge University.
Dr Skinner’s group – which also included scientists from University College London, the University of Florida and Norway’s Bergen University – calculates that the atmospheric concentration of CO2 would have to fall below about 240 parts per million (ppm) before the glaciation could begin.
The current level is around 390ppm.
Other research groups have shown that even if emissions were shut off instantly, concentrations would remain elevated for at least 1,000 years, with enough heat stored in the oceans potentially to cause significant melting of polar ice and sea level rise.