Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Northern Ice Sheets Younger Than Believed

06.10.2008
Climatologist Robert DeConto of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and colleagues at four institutions are reporting in the Oct. 2 issue of the journal Nature that their latest climate model of the Northern Hemisphere suggests conditions would have allowed ice sheets to form there for the last 25 million years, or about 22 million years earlier than generally assumed. Their research has implications for the evaluation of global climate change.

When climate and ice sheet models of the past closely match other information, in this case sea-level data, climate scientists gain more precise tools for predicting future trends. “There’s a lot of mysterious sea-level variability over the last 25 million years that is difficult to explain with Antarctic ice alone,” DeConto says. “But if ice sheets and glaciers were present earlier in the Northern Hemisphere, as we think they might have been, they might provide the answer.”

With future CO2 levels expected by the year 2100 to approach levels not seen in the last 25 million years, understanding past conditions is crucial for predicting possible implications for Earth’s ice sheets and sea levels. “It’s important that we get this right,” DeConto says. “If we are correct, we are rewriting the history of the cryosphere over the past 34 million years and calling a lot of things into question. It’s a challenge to geologists.” The cryosphere is the planet’s total amount of snow, ice and frozen ground.

The new model, accounting for atmospheric CO2 and changes in Earth’s orbit around the sun among other variables, shows that the threshold of atmospheric CO2 at which large ice sheet development in the Northern Hemisphere is possible, is much lower than for Antarctica. The work, supported by the National Science Foundation, also suggests that climate, ice sheets and sea level may be far more sensitive to CO2 levels than generally accepted.

“The last time CO2 levels were as high as they are expected to reach in coming centuries, there was no big ice sheet on Antarctica because the planet was too warm,” DeConto says. “This is not to say that we’ll see the great East Antarctic Ice Sheet melt, because its large size and high elevations are self-sustaining. But it is alarming. We are trying to understand exactly what the effect of those high CO2 levels will be. It appears there will be an associated rise in sea level because much of the rest of the world’s ice cover could be affected.”

In addition to DeConto, the team includes climate researchers from Penn State University and Yale University in the United States and the University of Southampton and Cardiff University in Great Britain. Their paper published today is accompanied by an invited commentary by geologist Stephen Pekar of Queens College, New York, an expert on ancient sea level variation over the same period. He notes that DeConto and colleagues’ results not only address the long-standing debate among geologists about the cause of ancient sea level fluctuations, but they are “relevant to today’s discussions about climate change.”

In an earlier paper, DeConto and colleagues had showed that global cooling which began about 34 million years ago during the “greenhouse to icehouse transition” was probably related to declining greenhouse gas levels and less to ocean currents around Antarctica as once believed.

Robert DeConto | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.geo.umass.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht New research calculates capacity of North American forests to sequester carbon
16.07.2018 | University of California - Santa Cruz

nachricht Scientists discover Earth's youngest banded iron formation in western China
12.07.2018 | University of Alberta

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Subaru Telescope helps pinpoint origin of ultra-high energy neutrino

16.07.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Barium ruthenate: A high-yield, easy-to-handle perovskite catalyst for the oxidation of sulfides

16.07.2018 | Life Sciences

New research calculates capacity of North American forests to sequester carbon

16.07.2018 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>