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Ice Ages Linked to Plate Tectonics 59

CorSci81 writes "A study by scientists at Ohio State University indicates the possibility that ice ages may be triggered by plate tectonics. Scientists speculate that the current ice age may have been triggered 40 million years ago by the uplift of the Himalayas, and this study provides further support by linking a much earlier ice age 450 million years ago with the uplift of the Appalachian mountain range. Additionally, this study reinforces the notion that CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is a major driver of climate."
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Ice Ages Linked to Plate Tectonics

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Just raise the Appalachians again.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Rove is working on it.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      So all we have to do to combat global warming is build some mountains? Sounds easy enough. Lets build some big drills and start pumping the magma!

      But this does make me a little sad. I was hoping to win a Nobel prize by showing that global warming could be easily halted with a nuclear winter.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Or we could just move the Earth a bit farther from the sun. That's how they solved global warming in Futurama.

      Not just in that cartoon either. As teenagers we've all read about awesome feats of planet-moving in Greg Bear's Moving Mars [amazon.com] or Larry Niven's Ringworld [amazon.com] . But now that I'm older and more pessimistic, I suspect we'll all drive ourselves extinct through some screwup or another before reaching such a level of technology. Slashdot is partly to blame for my becoming bitter and crotchety because of all

      • The first Futurama solution was adding ice cubes cut from Halley's comet into the world's oceans...oh yes, that worked until robots were classified as SUV's and light trucks...but that is not our problem...

        Hmmm...What would Wild E Coyote do?

        How about we get a bunch of Acme freezers with icemakers and dispense the ice into a series of meat grinders. The meat grinders can be belt driven at the axle by a fleet of gas powered tractors. Another belt can run from the grinder to a wheel with a bunch of snow shovel
    • Fortunately, looks like the Mountaineers [goasu.com] are on their way to another National Championship. Yeah, if we win that again, don't you worry, that party will absolutely raise the Appalachians.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      The Appalachians have actually undergone three orogenic (mountain-building) events. The biggest of these was the Taconic, [wikipedia.org] which is what they're talking about in the article. So conceivably, it could happen again, but it would be a long time in the works.
  • Well.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by fyngyrz ( 762201 ) * on Wednesday October 25, 2006 @07:14PM (#16586094) Homepage Journal

    ...my theory is that the current ice age began when women started wearing pants instead of dresses and skirts. Clearly, the interaction with the weather has changed. A good stiff breeze... and nothing. Then pantyhose replaced stockings, and all the garter snakes died. Putting your mind in the gutter no longer results in something to look up at. Er, to. Yeah.

    We're doomed, I tell you, DOOMED!

    • ...my theory is that the current ice age began when women started wearing pants instead of dresses and skirts. Clearly, the interaction with the weather has changed. A good stiff breeze... and nothing. Then pantyhose replaced stockings, and all the garter snakes died. Putting your mind in the gutter no longer results in something to look up at. Er, to. Yeah.

      Interesting theory, but there's a far more plausible explanation, as every believer of Pastafarianism knows. It's a severe lack of Pirates that's causi
  • Finally (Score:4, Funny)

    by QuantumFTL ( 197300 ) <justin,wick&gmail,com> on Wednesday October 25, 2006 @07:17PM (#16586134)
    Proof we're not causing global warming! It's all plates! Oil guys - keep on pumpin! Me, I'll be out in my SUV crusin' for ladies.
    • The (water) injection techniques (used to keep the pressure up) for oil wells on/about fault lines has lubricated plates & occassionaly caused slippage. By slippage, I mean earth quakes.

      Maybe modern extraction techniques aren't such a bright idea in some areas.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        It could be argued that they are better, though, in that the earthquakes may be triggered when there is less energy pent up in them, resulting in less destructive quakes.
  • by aphxtwn ( 702841 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2006 @07:55PM (#16586464)
    I think the researchers are suggesting there *may* be a relationship. It's tough to say anything concrete when researchers/scientists propose a theory making headline news and then someone else throws an idea out either suggesting another cause or contradicting a previous announcement. So far, among the many factors I've heard about ocean salinity, magnetosphere reversal, jet contrails, fossil fuels, green house gases. A lot of it seems more speculation than anything. Maybe it's just me.
    • by CorSci81 ( 1007499 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2006 @08:12PM (#16586630) Journal

      This study actually contradicts nothing. This idea had been around for sometime, this is just the latest study to offer for evidence in support. What has become clear to climate scientists (and was impressed upon me during my graduate studies in that field) is that climate is a very complicated, non-linear, multivariate system. The Milankovich cycles were one proposed theory for ice ages, linking natural cycles in Earth's orbit to ice ages, but it quickly became clear that wasn't the entire story. One of the questions scientists struggled with for a long time is "How do you start an ice age?" For long periods in Earth's history there have been intermittent ice ages, but they seemed to have no periodicity or pattern. Milankovich cycles definitely control whether the climate is glacial or inter-glacial during a long term ice age, but if the climate is already in a "warm" state they lack the oomph to trigger an ice age. This research provides one clue to the answer. Other proposed solutions have to do with the arrangement of the land masses on Earth's surface, and ultimately they are all probable factors.

      Regarding green house gases, one of the things this study does is reinforce the link between CO2 and climate state. Weathering is one way of removing a lot of CO2 from the atmosphere over long periods of time, and is part of the reason why Earth isn't more like Venus. Geologic forces removed a huge fraction of Earth's primordial CO2 from the atmosphere, more than we could ever hope to release by burning all of the fossil fuels on the planet.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by sumdumass ( 711423 )

        This study actually contradicts nothing.

        yes it does contradict something. It is this idea that humans are the sole cause of global warming and that humans need to sacrifice everything, pay more for newer technology coming out because it is said to help cure global warming and the worst idea of we have to pay other countries because we emit more green house gases then they do.

        Now, I'm not going to claim humans don't have an influence on global warming. I'm not even going to try and minimize it. I am going

        • by CorSci81 ( 1007499 ) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @05:37AM (#16590714) Journal

          Two points. One: no one ever said humans are the sole cause. That said, it's clear we are part of what's going on. Two: the implication of the full article is that CO2 has a very large effect on climate. In turn, this implies that the rapid increase in CO2 due to humans may have a very large impact on our climate in a very short time.

          And in a sense you have hit the nail on the head. Global warming is very much a political/economic issue and much less a science issue. Even if science can say what will happen, the simple fact is we can't easily reverse what we have already done, which could have consequences for a few centuries.

          Now I'll pose a different question to you... what is the cost of doing nothing vs. taking what actions we can to mitigate the risk? The simple fact is we're rolling the dice and there will be winners and there will be losers, and we don't know which will be which. Even if only the least severe scenarios prove to be true, rising sea levels alone present us with an economic burden that far outweighs the costs of doing something now. So we don't understand everything well enough to know the exact outcome; but do we really want to roll those dice? I know I'm not a gambling man.

          • One: no one ever said humans are the sole cause.

            Humans being the sole cause is the overriding tone of the political pro=global warming crowd who cite study after study as proof. Ironically, the most verbal people saying "global warming is your fault" and "we are all going to die because of you" are the same one who told us to stop doing things they considered in excess and enjoying ourselves, come out against conglomerate power companies in favor of alternative but more expensive energy production that s

        • by foobsr ( 693224 ) *
          It is nnot only global warming, it is eating up resources as well. The Living Planet Report 2006 [panda.org] gives some insight.

          From the site: Effectively, the Earth's regenerative capacity can no longer keep up with demand - people are turning resources into waste faster than nature can turn waste back into resources.

      • Just to add a little to CorSci81's very fine post here other possible triggers not mentioned in his post as I remember them from my classes in this is things like: - Vulcanism which might both create lot's of dust in the athmosphere in the atmosphere, having mostly a cooling effect while the vulcanic activity might also cause local heating. This is also to some degree linked to plate tectonics.
        - Swamps becoming frozen which is a kind is a big reserve of metane and CO2 which might is "held in store" once th
      • by aphxtwn ( 702841 )
        What I meant by the contradictory statements was scientists who think the earth may be cooling down versus those who think it's warming up. It just seems the press makes announcements saying like one of the guys here in the thread mentioned, the decline of pirates contributed to climate change. What troubles me was the way the article was titled, suggesting there is a definite link when it's more of a possibility. I think speculation can be good, but I don't think it makes good news. If it survives rigo
        • Well, as the guy who submitted the article, I thought the title I chose was fairly innocuous since ice ages != global warming. It's just the sad fact that when you bring up climate change of any kind people who are not climate scientists immediately start going off about global warming. It's one of those cases where everyone is an expert and few people bother to listen to what those of us who actually study this field are saying. It was a big issue in my graduate program as we constantly have to deal wit

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )
        Earth isn't like venus, might just possibly have more to do with venus's contra-rotation and reformed plantry surface being indicative of a very large impact some time in the not to distant past. You also would have to wonder how the orbit of venus was altered by that impact and how other plantary bodies were affected during that change.

        Whilst the minor ice ages are likely generated by concidental seismic events (major earthquakes and volcanoes occuring at virtually the same time geologically speaking) th

    • You forgot about the decline of Pirates.
    • You are quite right.

      >> Scientists speculate that the current ice age may have been triggered 40 million years ago by the uplift of the Himalayas

      Speculate is the most important word in the whole writeup. To infer any more would be incorrect.

      If you spend a few months examining the theory and implementation of the various types of Global Climate Model, you cannot fail to become aware of the incredible number of assumptions and inherent limits and intentionally narrowed scope and couplings in the models.
  • by aapold ( 753705 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2006 @08:17PM (#16586670) Homepage Journal
    "A study by scientists at Ohio State University..."

    that should read:

    "A study by scientists at THE Ohio State University..."
  • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2006 @08:23PM (#16586752)
    I'm just trying to keep up, here. As long as I park far enough away from that Tahoe down the block, though, that should keep the other end of our street from tilting up and altering the weather. Um, unless we want that to happen. It's confusing, now. I'll carry around some extra sandbags if that will help.
  • The current Ice Age? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by NewsWatcher ( 450241 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2006 @09:31PM (#16587426)
    I have studied paleoanthropology and geology, and I am unsure of why they would say that the "current ice age" began 40 million years ago. We are currently in a Holocene (warm period) which began about 11,000 years ago. The last glacial maximum was 18,000 years ago. Since then we have gradually been getting warmer.

    For what it is worth, these fluctuations have usually been attributed to fluctuations in the earth's tilt. Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] has a fairly good explanation.

    • Also from Wikipedia, the explanation to your confusion:

      An ice age is a period of long-term downturn in the temperature of Earth's climate, resulting in an expansion of the continental ice sheets, polar ice sheets and mountain glaciers ("glaciation"). Glaciologically, ice age is often used to mean a period of ice sheets in the northern and southern hemispheres; by this definition we are still in an ice age (because the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets still exist). More colloquially, when speaking of the l

    • Earth's tilt! Plate movement! Greenhouse gasses! Changing weather systems! El Nino! El chupacabra! By God are you implying that global temperature is a complex system with no single cause for temperature fluctuation?
      • Re:Could it be? (Score:5, Informative)

        by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @01:43AM (#16589598) Journal
        "By God are you implying that global temperature is a complex system with no single cause for temperature fluctuation?"

        Over millions of years certainly, over a couple of hundred years the long term "causes" (orbit, tilt, tectonics, ect) simply drop out of the equation as irrelevant.

        How not to attribute climate change [realclimate.org], (nice graph). It's also interesting to note that 20th century warming would actually be a slight cooling if human CO2 emissions were removed from the models.
    • by doug ( 926 ) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @12:56AM (#16589290)
      For most of the Earth's history there has been no year-round polar ice like there is now. Until the ice caps melt we're still in an ice age. Read this [wikipedia.org] article for more details.
  • by neurostar ( 578917 ) <neurostar@pr i v o n.com> on Wednesday October 25, 2006 @11:00PM (#16588232)

    A researcher who I believe is on this project was at RIT (where I'm a student) and gave a talk on this. It was quite interesting. Unfortunately I had to leave partway through, but the indications were very interesting. Also very cool was a plot of amplitude of temperature variation against period (time). There were spikes at 1 day (24-hour temperature variations) and 1 year (seasonal variations). But the most interesting were spikes at millions of years, indicating there were large scale temperature cycles with periods of millions of years, consistent with global warming being a natural phenomenon. (I'm not saying we aren't affecting though). It was a very interesting plot. (I'm not sure where they got the data from, or how they verified it actually is periodic. My guess is that they took temperature differences though the ages and used the amplitudes of the various instances to infer which were corresponding to the same "cycle")

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