Measurements, Interpretation and Models

Donald Rapp

Ice Ages and Interglacials The unusually warm period that the Earth has been experiencing over the past 11,000 years or so is an interglacial; over the previous 100,000 years a long build-up of gigantic ice sheets culminated in the last glacial maximum about 20,000 years ago when so much of the Earth’s water was tied up as ice that the oceans were lowered by more than 100 meters. This pattern of long, slow build-up of ice ages interspersed by relatively shorter interglacial periods has been repeated many times.

During the last ice age, humans developed elaborate tools and homo sapiens migrated from Africa to Europe as well as from Asia to North America via the Bering Straits. However, it wasn't until the ice age ended that agriculture began - and with it the foundation of modern civilization. Today, we are experiencing climate change that may be partly due to industrialization, land clearing, and other elements of human activity. Predictions have been made that this could trigger or prevent future ice ages from occurring. It is therefore not surprising that there is enormous interest in the mechanisms which trigger the onset of ice ages, as well as what causes them to end so abruptly.

Ice Ages and Interglacials reviews the methodologies used and the evidence from surface geology, ice cores, ocean sediments and other data sources to summarize what is known about past ice ages and interglacials. It then elaborates the various theories that have been proposed to explain their occurrence, with particular emphasis on the predominant astronomical theory.

This book provides by far the most complete comparison of ice age theories with a broad range of data from many sources.

Table of Contents

List of figures
List of tables
List of abbreviations and acronyms
  1. Life and climate in an ice age
  2. Variability of the Earth’s climate
  3. Ice core methodology
  4. Ice core data
  5. Ocean sediment data
  6. Other data sources
  7. Summary of climate variations
  8. Overview of the various models for ice ages in the recent past (3 million years ago to the present)
  9. Variability of the Earth’s orbit: astronomical theory
  10. Comparison of astronomical theory with data
  11. Future prospects

Extent: 288 pages
Binding: Hardback
Published: 2009
ISBN: 978-3-540-89679-1

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