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article imageDebate ends on central cause of earth's cooling and warming

By Michael Krebs     Aug 8, 2009 in Science
As the carbon dioxide management bill - aka cap and trade - looms in Congress, a new study emerges that ends the scientific debate on the central causes of ice ages and warming periods on Earth.
Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore is fond of saying that the scientific debate on global warming is over - and while he may now be correct in the fact that a debate has come to an end, the central cause behind climate change does not support the carbon cap legislation that is being cobbled together by Mr. Gore and his Democratic allies in the U.S. Congress.
The earth cools and warms due to the wobble in its rotation and axis - factors in large-scale physics that human beings cannot control. These are factors, also, that human beings did not cause.
"Researchers have largely put to rest a long debate on the underlying mechanism that has caused periodic ice ages on Earth for the past 2.5 million years – they are ultimately linked to slight shifts in solar radiation caused by predictable changes in Earth's rotation and axis," [i]Science Daily [/i]reported on Friday.
The findings from the research team at Oregon State University were published in the journal Science and conclude that changes in solar radiation caused by wobbling set off predictable periods of ice ages and of warming. While ocean temperatures and greenhouse gases play a tangential role in this heating and cooling process, the wobble of the earth is the core reason.
"The melting was first caused by more solar radiation, not changes in carbon dioxide levels or ocean temperatures, as some scientists have suggested in recent years," Science Daily reported.
The issue of global warming has been politicized around the world, and the concrete findings from Oregon State University are largely at odds with the human/carbon-cause perspective.
"Solar radiation was the trigger that started the ice melting, that's now pretty certain," said Peter Clark, a professor of geosciences at OSU, according to Science Daily. "There were also changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and ocean circulation, but those happened later and amplified a process that had already begun."
The amplification Professor Clark references will likely be reversed, as the planet's ongoing wobble is currently directing us into another ice age.
"Sometime around now, scientists say, the Earth should be changing from a long interglacial period that has lasted the past 10,000 years and shifting back towards conditions that will ultimately lead to another ice age – unless some other forces stop or slow it," Science Daily reported.
The researchers employed and analysis of 6,000 dates and locations of ice sheets. This approach provided an incredibly accurate picture of when they started to melt.
"We can calculate changes in the Earth's axis and rotation that go back 50 million years," Clark said. "These are caused primarily by the gravitational influences of the larger planets, such as Jupiter and Saturn, which pull and tug on the Earth in slightly different ways over periods of thousands of years."
While scientists remain concerned about the potential impact around the melting of certain major ice sheets - like those in Greenland and Antarctica, and there is ongoing concern about the effect that greenhouses gasses and ocean temperatures may have in terms of causing a lingering among warmer temperatures, it is vital to our understanding that we now know the mechanisms and the causes behind the establishment and erasure of ice ages.
More about Global warming, Climate change, Ice age, Earth, Cap trade
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