When is the next global ice age


A new ice age will come in 15,000 years at the earliest. This is proven by climate research in which scientists from the University of Bern are involved.

This content was published on June 10, 2004 - 11:29 am

However, the prerequisite is that humans do not interfere too much with nature.

The research results result from the European ice core drilling "Epica" (European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica) in the Antarctic, which has so far drilled 2500 meters deep into the ice sheet.

The ice cores "reflect 740,000 years of climate history", says AWI Director Heinz Miller, Director of the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) in Bremerhaven, about a publication in the British journal "Nature".

For almost a million years, snowfalls have been deposited in thin layers of ice in the inland ice. This is the longest continuous climate record based on ice cores, says Miller.

The longest warm period so far

The scientists registered a total of eight ice and warm periods in the area. It is still unclear whether human influence will accelerate the coming of the Ice Age.

With the current warm period, which has lasted for 12,000 years, the earth is likely to experience one of the longest warm periods in the past 420,000 years, according to Miller.

The past four periods of moderate temperatures were therefore only relatively short at 12,000 to 15,000 years. The cold periods lasted much longer.

Drilling down to the stony ground

The researchers want to explore another 200,000 years in the coming winter when they drill the last 100 meters of ice above the bedrock. The analysis of the ice cores, each three meters long, is expected to take years.

According to Miller, the climate information trapped in the ice is much more detailed than the findings that the scientists found in the previous drillings in the sea floor. In contrast to the soil samples, traces of the gases that influence climate change are stored in the thin layers of ice.

Highest value in 500,000 years

In contrast to the soil samples, traces of the gases that influence climate change are stored in the thin layers of ice. Among other things, the researchers discovered that the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere in earlier ice ages was 200 ppm (proportion per million parts) and 280 ppm in warm periods.

Since 1750, the proportion of this greenhouse gas has risen to 370 ppm due to human influence. According to preliminary analyzes, this is the highest value in the past 500,000 years.

What consequences this has for the climate, however, cannot be inferred from the ice cores, said Miller.

University of Bern with an important contribution

Researchers from 10 European countries, including Swiss, are involved in Epica: The Department of Climate and Environmental Physics at the Physics Institute of the University of Bern has a key role in the project.

According to their own statements, the Bern scientists are world leaders in determining the concentration of greenhouse gases in polar ice cores.

The drill head, which is used in the Antarctic, was designed and built in Bern; the derrick was constructed in collaboration with a Bern company.

swissinfo and agencies


The climate of times long past is captured in the thick layer of ice in the Antarctic.

European climate researchers, including scientists from the University of Bern, have so far reconstructed eight ice ages and eight warm periods within a period of 740,000 years in their ice analyzes.

With the latest drilling technology, it is now possible to bring ice to the surface from 3000 meters.

The project is financed by the EU and the participating countries. The Swiss National Science Foundation has provided around CHF 2.8 million for this. upset.

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