Scientists from Germany seem to suggest that the next ice age will occur approximately 50,000 to 100,000 years later than expected, as a consequence of greenhouse gases emissions and global warming caused by humans. The study published in the journal Nature on Wednesday, states that new findings demonstrate how we are changing geological conditions and natural phenomena such as the next glaciation.

The team of researchers studied the conditions that were needed for a glaciation. It was calculated that the form the Earth’s orbit around the Sun has right now, would be propitious (for a process that takes thousands of years), however, the levels of carbon dioxide which are in the air are extremely high and the time of the glaciation will be extended.

Due to global warming and greenhouse gas emissions produced by humans, the next glaciation has been delayed for 50,000 years. Credit:

“In theory, the next ice age could be even further into the future, but there is no real practical importance in discussing whether it starts in 50,000 or 100,000 years from now. The important thing is that it is an illustration that we have a geological power now. We can change the natural sequence of events for tens of thousands of years,” said Andrey Ganopolski from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research to BBC News.

Results would appear to show that still without the intervention of humans, no considerable ice sheets will be formed in the next thousands of years, so the current interglacial phase would take about 50,000 more years to take place. That being said, with the CO2 emissions of 1,000 to 1,500 gigatons of carbon, that are being accumulated in the atmosphere, will make the interglacial phase longer.

Researchers added that their estimations demonstrate that the Earth would follow its normal cycle in natural conditions. They explained that our planet is passing through a period where the Sun is farthest while summertime occurs.

“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,” said Andrey Ganopolski.

Since the beginning of the last century, scientists have proposed that a new geological epoch called the “Anthropocene,” represented by atomic bomb tests and industrialization, should be added to records since humans have changed Earth in considerable ways and the composition of the rocks has been modified.

According to current science, humans are living right now in the Holocene, an epoch that began 11,700 years ago, which started at the end of the last of the Ice Age, when sea levels started to grow. By the 21th century, habitat destruction and contamination are among the most relevant factors that have changed Earth.

We are apparently becoming a geological agent, like researchers mentioned, we are changing layers of sediments, composed by aluminium and carbon and we are extending the time of the interglaciation era.  Professor Chris Rapley, from University College London, said to BBC that these new findings presented more evidence that we actually have entered a new geological epoch.

Source: Journal Nature