November 10, 2012

“Carbon sequestration in peatland may be one of the main reasons why ice age conditions have occurred time after time”

Filed under: Environment, Science — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

Overall, global cooling is far more to be feared than global warming … and we may be seeing the conditions that would create a new ice age in the near future:

A group of Swedish scientists at the University of Gothenburg have published a paper in which they argue that spreading peatlands are inexorably driving planet Earth into its next ice age, and the only thing holding back catastrophe is humanity’s hotly debated atmospheric carbon emissions.

“We are probably entering a new ice age right now. However, we’re not noticing it due to the effects of carbon dioxide,” says Professor of Physical Geography Lars Franzén, from the Department of Earth Sciences at Gothenburg uni.

[. . .]

The scientists have calculated that the potential is there for Swedish peatlands to triple in extent, enormously increasing their carbon sink effect. By extrapolating to include the rest of the world’s high-latitude temperate areas – the parts of the globe where peatland can expand as it does in Sweden – they project the creation of an extremely powerful carbon sink. They theorise that this is the mechanism which tends to force the Earth back into prolonged ice ages after each relatively brief “interglacial” warm period.

“Carbon sequestration in peatland may be one of the main reasons why ice age conditions have occurred time after time,” says Franzén.

With no other factors in play, the time is about right for the present interglacial to end and the next ice age to come on. Indeed, Franzén and his crew think it has barely been staved off by human activity

Caution should be exercised with this as with all climate-model-based predictions: our models are still not good enough to be dependable, so this is no more something to panic about than the “global warming” scare of the last decade. It is something to consider and to try to develop better models and collect more data to support or contradict the findings.

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