Research by scientists at the University of Arizona has been able to establish how cold the last Ice Age was. Their findings could lead us to better understand how changes in our climate affects the planet.
The scientists worked out that 20,000 years ago at the last global Ice Age, the average temperature was 6 degrees Celsius in contrast to the 20thC when it was 14 degrees Celsius.
It was also shown how the different parts of the world were affected.
Jessica Tierney, associate professor in the University Arizona Department of Geosciences explained:
“In North America and Europe, the most northern parts were covered in ice and were extremely cold.
“The biggest cooling was in high latitudes, such as the Arctic, where it was about 14 C (25 F) colder than today.
“When you look at future projections, it gets really warm over the Arctic. That’s referred to as polar amplification.
“Similarly, during the LGM, we find the reverse pattern. Higher latitudes are just more sensitive to climate change and will remain so going forward.”
They also calculated that that for every doubling of atmospheric carbon, global temperature should increase by 3.4 C.
Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels during the Ice Age were about 180 parts per million, which is very low. Before the Industrial Revolution, levels rose to about 280 parts per million, and today they’ve reached 415 parts per million.
The scientists used data collected from ocean plankton fossils and created models. The research will move on to look at what happened when the Earth went through warm periods.
Jessica Tierney said:
“If we can reconstruct past warm climates then we can start to answer important questions about how the Earth reacts to really high carbon dioxide levels, and improve our understanding of what future climate change might hold.”