An international team of scientists has used new data to determine why Earth’s melting ice sheets began in the last ice age.
Scientists say the results provide insight into the processes that led to the global warming of the last Ice Age, which lasted from about 3 million years ago to present.
The research was published online May 22 in Nature Climate Change.
The researchers say that over the last half-million years, the global climate system has been changing rapidly and rapidly.
Over the last two million years, global temperatures have risen by about 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
But scientists say these changes have largely been driven by changes in the global ice sheets and the surrounding ocean, not by the melting of the Arctic.
“These changes are happening at a rate that’s unprecedented in Earth history,” lead author Dr. Robert Hildebrand of the University of Copenhagen said in a statement.
“In the last thousand years, temperatures have warmed by more than 5 degrees Fahrenheit, and in the past 100 years, they’ve warmed by 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit.”
The researchers believe that the ice sheets, and the oceans surrounding them, are being disrupted by more intense storms, which have led to more melting.
“The impact of the storm system on the ice sheet and the ocean is going to be significant over the next hundred years, probably much more significant than what’s been observed so far,” Hildebrands said.
The scientists used a suite of climate model simulations to find out how ice sheets responded to changing weather patterns and the impact of global warming.
The new research builds on the work of Dr. Andrew Strominger of the US National Snow and Ice Data Center, who has used computer models to predict how the world’s ice will respond to global warming in the next 100 years.
Strominger has found that as the Earth warms, the rate at which ice sheets retreat and the amount of sea-level rise that they can absorb will increase.
“We’ve learned that, on average, the ice-sheet retreats about a tenth of a degree in 10,000 years, which is a bit higher than what we’re seeing right now,” Stromings said.
“But that change is not linear.
The ice-retreat rate changes dramatically every 10, 10, 20, or 100 years.””
This is really the first time that we have a comprehensive model that gives us a sense of how the ice is changing and how it is changing with time,” Strimings added.