Tilt is a 100,000-year planetary pacemaker
Scientists have long debated what causes glacial/interglacial cycles, which have occurred most recently at intervals of about 100,000 years. A new study reported in the March 24 issue of Nature finds that these glacial cycles are paced by variations in the tilt of Earth’s axis, and that glaciations end when Earth’s tilt is large.
With more than 30 explanations proposed for these glacial cycles, researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) looked at the various possibilities to determine a more precise explanation. Some hypotheses suggested changes in Earth’s orbit, others that glacial cycles are caused by random climate variability. The researchers found that the most plausible cause was that variations in the tilt of the Earth’s axis control the timing of glaciations, acting as a planetary pacemaker of sorts.
Shelley Dawicki | EurekAlert!
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