TECH

Carbon Emissions Have Delayed The Next Ice Age By 50,000 Years Say Scientists

14/01/2016 11:16 GMT | Updated 14/01/2016 11:59 GMT

Scientists in Germany have said that the increase in greenhouse gasses may have actually delayed the next ice age by around 50,000 years.

ice age

The scientists looked at the trigger events needed to cause an ice age to start and found that Earth was actually due to experience the start of a new ice age over a hundred years ago.

Humankind however had other ideas with the industrial revolution pumping huge quantities of carbon into the atmosphere. It was this seismic shift in artificial atmospheric conditions that reportedly cause the Earth to skip its predicted glaciation.

Writing in the journal Nature, the scientists found that the Earth's orbit around the Sun was the key to predicting when the Earth would go through a sustained period of cooling.

The Earth's orbit around the sun is by no means perfect, with tiny variations taking place over thousands of years with the end result being a clear identifiable pattern of ice ages emerging.

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Talking to the BBC, researcher Andrey Ganopolski from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research explained:

"Under normal circumstances, the interglacial would be terminated, and a new ice age would start. So, in principle, we are in the perfect conditions from an astronomical point of view. If we had a CO2 concentration of 240 parts per million (200 years ago) then an ice age could start, but luckily we had a concentration that was higher, 280ppm."

earth orbiting the sun

The researchers now say because that amount has since doubled we may have extended the waiting period even further to between 50,000-100,000 years.

It is then both a near miss and a stark warning because had we kept the levels at those experienced in the 18th Century we still would have postponed the next ice age for at least 20,000 years.

The warning that follow is that even small periods of time such as a few hundred years can have a truly colossal impact on the climate in thousands of years to come.