Scientists studying Antarctica sea ice warn a rise in accumulation could spark the next ice age.
Computer simulations show that an explosion in ice circling the frozen desert would act as a lid on the ocean and block it from exchanging carbon dioxide with the atmosphere.
This is capable of causing a reverse greenhouse effect, which would ultimately cool the earth and send our planet into an ice age for the first time in over two million years.
The last major ice age is believed to have ended about 2.5 million years ago during the Pleistocene era.
Since then, glaciers have periodically covered the earth, but then retreated and experts have now set out to understand the process behind an ice age — how it works and what triggers it.
The latest study was conducted by a team at the University of Chicago who set out to discover and understand the processes that makeup global climate.
Assistant professor Malte Jansen at the University of Chicago (UChicago) said, ‘One key question in the field is still what caused the Earth to periodically cycle in and out of ice ages.’
‘We are pretty confident that the carbon balance between the atmosphere and ocean must have changed, but we don’t quite know how or why.’
Jansen and former UChicago postdoctoral researcher Alice Marzocchi developed computer simulations of Antarctica sea ice and found it not only changes ocean circulation but acts as a lid and blocks it from releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere – the less carbon in the air, the cooler the planet becomes.
‘What this suggests is that it’s a feedback loop,’ said Marzocchi, now a research scientist at the UK’s National Oceanography Center.
‘As the temperature drops, less carbon is released into the atmosphere, which triggers more cooling.’
The explanation fits with evidence about the past climate from sources like sediments, coral reefs, and core samples from glaciers.
‘What surprised me is how much of this increased storage can be attributed to physical changes alone, with Antarctic sea-ice cover being the key player,’ Marzocchi said.
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October 31, 2019 at 07:15AM