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Name: Richard
Status: Educator
Age: 40s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: September 12, 2002

Many theories exist about what caused the many "Ice ages" that the earth has experienced. Some people say we are still in an ice age, but that we have just been in a warming trend for the past few thousand years. My question is this: How much influence does the fluctuating orbit of the earth and the gradual change in the tilt of the earth's axis have on the cyclical ice ages the earth has been through?
And secondly, do we have cause to believe that the great ice sheets (glaciers) may return fairly soon?

Whether we are expecting "global warming" or a "great ice age" seems to depend upon whose crystal ball you choose to look into. In any case "ice ages" occur on geological time scales, so none of us will have to worry about it. We will all be long gone.

Vince Calder


You may want also to look up the answer that I gave concerning the orbit and tilt of the Earth in the NEWTON archive. However, most climatologists agree that the orbit and especially the tilt have a significant effect on climate and thus on the cyclical ice ages.

Some Penn State scientists have hypothesized that the tilt of the Earth may have been as much as 54 degrees at one time and it slowly changed to the present 23 degrees as huge ice sheets formed and melted, and changed Earth's shape over the past 150 million years. This theory would help to account for tropical fossils appearing in polar areas.

David R. Cook
Atmospheric Research Section
Environmental Research Division
Argonne National Laboratory

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