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During the past three million years, the Earth has periodically plunged into an ice age. Although the planet is now in an interglacial period, the situation may change due to rising global temperatures, scientists say.
Scientists at Cardiff University have found that the melting of Antarctic icebergs could set off a chain reaction that plunges Earth into a new ice age, The Daily Mail reported.
As part of the research, the scientists studied rock fragments that were dumped into the ocean by melting icebergs and found that they lead to changes in deep ocean circulation.
The melting of Antarctic icebergs displaces a large amount of fresh water from the Southern Ocean to the Atlantic. Thus, the Southern Ocean becomes saltier and the North Atlantic becomes cooler, leading to a change in the ocean’s circulation pattern.
With such changes, carbon dioxide is withdrawn from the atmosphere more quickly, reducing the so-called greenhouse effect and thus pushing the Earth into the new ice age.
“There has been speculation about such an important role for the Southern Ocean and Antarctica in the global climate, but seeing it so clearly in the geological evidence was very exciting,” said Aidan Starr, from the College of Earth and Environmental Sciences from Cardiff University.
However, according to scientists, the current rise in global temperatures may disrupt the ordinary ice age cycle because the Southern Ocean is likely to warm up and prevent icebergs from travelling far enough to change the circulation patterns of the ice. ocean in a way that triggers an ice age.