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Ice Age may have ended because of irregular Earth gyration


A replica of an Ice Age lion is seen during the 'Giganten Der Eizeit' exhibition opening on May 31, 2011 in St Peter-Ording, Germany. A new hypothesis suggests that the Ice Age ended because of a wobble in Earth's axis.


Krafft Angerer

11,000 years ago, much of the world we know was cold - really cold. Glaciers covered Scotland, Scandinavia, Russia, New England, New York, and much of the upper Midwest in what is today the United States.

Scientists have long suspected that carbon dioxide helped warm the earth and end the Ice Age, but they also knew Earth warmed before atmospheric CO2 increased. Antarctic ice sampling is one of the most commonly-used methods of studying climate history.

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"So which came first in the Antarctic, warming or CO2?" NPR wrote

A new theory suggests that a wobble in Earth's gyration may have exposed the Arctic ice caps to the sun, melting ice which entered the oceanic "conveyor belt" that affects climate by circulating different-temperature waters around the globe, according to NPR.

The fresh water entered in a particularly crucial part of the conveyor belt — the North Atlantic — gumming up the gears, causing warm water to stay near Antarctica. 

"Eventually, ocean currents and wind patterns changed and carbon dioxide rose up out of the Southern oceans and into the atmosphere," NPR wrote.

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The report, published this week in the journal Nature, "offers a response to those skeptical about human-caused global warming," who have pointed out that CO2 rose after Earth began to warm, according to The Christian Science Monitor.

The "research found that the amount of CO2 it took to end the ice age is about the same amount as humans have added to the atmosphere in the past century," NPR wrote.