Cochise College           Student Papers in Geology

Geology Home Page                   physical geology  historical geology  planetary  gems           

Roger Weller, geology instructor

Ice Ages
by Sam Yang
Physical Geology
Fall 2012

The Next Ice Age: Coming Soon?

Recently there have been some speculations about whether or not Earth will enter into a new Ice Age before the next century. Iíve taken it upon myself to get to the truth behind this rather apocalyptic weather forecast.

Description: C:\Users\Edge\Desktop\Geo Term Paper\image-01-large.jpg

What is an Ice Age?

An Ice Age is a distinct time during the history of Earth when a majority of the continents of the planet was covered by glaciers. To date, there have been at least 5 major Ice Ages on Earth.

Description: C:\Users\Edge\Desktop\Geo Term Paper\ice-age-cover.jpg

What causes it?  

While there is more than one theory about the origins of an Ice Age, it is most likely caused by variations in intensity of heat coming from the sun when a phenomenon called the procession of equinoxes occurs. During this phenomenon the position of the Earthís elliptical path around the sun changes, affecting the amount of sunlight that strikes different parts of the planet. Because of this phenomenon, there are periods when the summers on Earth are cold enough to have preserved remaining snow from the previous winter. Consequently centuries pass and ice sheets are formed across the planet.

Description: C:\Users\Edge\Desktop\Geo Term Paper\Precess_1.gif

How long does it last?

Once believed to last around 12,000 years at a time, a definite or more accurate estimation has been met with differing opinions: some say tens of thousands of years and others say hundreds of thousands of years (It would be safest to assume an Ice Age lasts somewhere in between).

Description: C:\Users\Edge\Desktop\Geo Term Paper\fourglaciations.gif

So when will the next Ice Age be?

            Another Ice Age is inevitably due, but not any time soon. The last Ice Age occurred roughly 11,500 years ago. Although the next Ice Age was previously predicted to be in about 1,500 years, we are now finding that because carbon dioxide emission into the atmosphere is at such a high level the next Ice Age may be delayed further by another thousand years. Blame it on global warming. However, as speculations on further delay will inevitably change, the point to take from this is that most of us will not be alive to witness another major Ice Age on Earth.

Description: C:\Users\Edge\Desktop\Geo Term Paper\glaciers.jpg