Earth Sciences and Ecology Question #2392

Kym McCallum, a 14 year old female from Gladstone asks on November 30, 2004,

How long would it take for the next Ice Age to develop?

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The answer

Barry Shell answered on November 30, 2004

Nobody can say for sure, just like nobody can say what the weather will be like next year--or next month for that matter. If there is another ice age, it probably won't be for thousands of years. Take a look at the graph on this page on Robert Carroll, the famous Canadian paleontologist. Scroll down to the section called The Science and look at the graphic there. Click on it to enlarge it. At the top, the graph labeled number 1, shows the cycle of ice ages. Note carefully that the tick marks represent 100 million years. We are still just barely heading out of an ice age now and possibly entering into a very warm phase. However, we cannot say if there will be a few wiggles in this curve with an ice age or two thrown in on the way to perhaps 100 million years of hothouse temperatures! Ultimately, it's going to get a lot hotter. Probably hot enough for dinosaurs (or something like them) to live on the north pole in vast tropical jungles as they did about 60 million years ago.

Whether humans will be around for this or not is anybody's guess. I kind of doubt it. Considering that our recorded human history only goes back about 5000 years, even a hundred thousand years is too hard to imagine. The oldest human fossil remains is just a few million years old. To exist for another hundred million years seems completely impossible--at least for me.

Nobody knows for sure, of course, but based on long term patterns of the past, this is what is likely to happen. That is one reason I'm personally not too worried about global warming. We're definitely heading for a long period of global warming. Really long. You won't have to get used to it though. Your distant descendants will.

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