Guest post by David Archibald
Baby boomers like me have enjoyed the most benign period in human history. The superpower nuclear standoff gave us fifty years of relative peace, we had cheap energy from inherent over-supply of oil, grain supply increased faster than population growth and the climate warmed due to the highest solar activity for 8,000 years. All those trends are now reversing. But it will get much worse than that. The next glaciation will wipe out many countries and nothing will stop that from happening. For example, the UK will end up looking like Lapland. As an indication of just how vicious it is going to get, consider that there are rocks on the beaches of Scotland that got blown over on ice from Norway across a frozen North Sea. As scientists, our task is to predict the onset of the next glaciation.
Onset of interglacials is driven by insolation at 65°N. That is where the landmass is that is either snow-covered all year round or not. It seems that insolation above 510 watts/sq metre will end a glacial period. For an interglacial period to end, the oceans have to lose heat content so that snows will linger through the summer and increase the Earth’s albedo. Thanks to the disposition of the continents, our current ice age might last tens of millions of years yet. From the Milankovitch data, this graph shows insolation at 65°N from 50,000 BC to 50,000 AD:
The green box has the Holocene ending at 3,000 AD – an arbitary choice. Insolation is already low enough to trigger glacial onset. For the last 8,000 years, the Earth has been cooling at 0.25°C per thousand years, so the oceans are losing heat. We just have to get to that trigger point at which snows linger through the northern summer. Solar Cycle 25 might be enough to set it off. By the end of this decade, we will be paying more attention to the Rutgers Global Snow Lab data.
From the source at: http://most-likely.blogspot.com/2012/03/milankovitch-cycles-and-glaciations.html
Model input is obliquity and precession and model output is the inverted δ¹⁸O record, with zero mean during the Pleistocene, from Lisiecki and Raymo 2004 and Huybers 2007. Lisiecki and Raymo use orbital tuning to constrain the age of the benthic records, while Huybers explicitly avoids this, consequently the two datasets are occasionally completely out of phase, but generally in good agreement, especially in the late Pleistocene.
As fitness function we take the product of the sum of squared errors (SSE) between the model and the two reference records from 2580 thousand years before present, with 1000 year timesteps.
For the longer term perspective, this is a combined crop (to make a continuous timeline) of the two fulls panel from the model prediction of the Milankovitch data.
The time period represented is from approximately 450,000 BC to 330,000 AD. The scale on the vertical axis is change in O18 content. There is a very good hind-cast match between the model and past temperature change as shown by the work of Lisiecki et al 2005 and Huybers 2007. The next glaciation is fully developed between 55,000 and 60,000 AD, with the next interglacial 20,000 years after that.
Huybers, P., 2007, Glacial variability over the last 2Ma: an extended depth-derived age model, continuous obliquity pacing, and the Pleistocene progression, Quaternary Science Reviews 26, 37-55.
Lisiecki, L. E., and M. E. Raymo, 2005, A Pliocene-Pleistocene stack of 57 globally distributed benthic d18O records Paleoceanography, 20, PA1003, doi:10.1029/2004PA001071.
Source Data: Download the consolidated data, including orbital parameters, insolation calculations, reference data and model output: Milankovitch.xlsx