Climate Change Essay

1982 words - 8 pages

Describe in what way has the global climate changed during the Quaternary Period (i.e. the past 2.6 million years) and explain what is believed to have been the interacting orbital mechanisms that have been controlling these cyclical changes. Finally explain how such apparently minor orbital changes can produce such major changes in global climate.One of the most abnormal global climate change time periods in the history of the Earth is the time frame of the Quaternary period. The Quaternary period bounds the earth's history from approximately 2.6 million years ago through to present day. Although the Quaternary is an extremely small segment of the entire 4.55 billion year history of Earth, It is especially significant as the climatic events that have happened during this period have led to the Earth's climate to be what it is today. Climate can be defined as the weather conditions present in a large area of the earth in general or it can be over periods of time, such the climate change through the quaternary period. The Quaternary period has been characterised by alternating periods of cooling and warming or known as Glacial-Interglacial periods. An estimated 20 Glacial-Interglacial periods have happened during the quaternary period (Adams, Maslin & Thomas, 1999). Exactly what has been responsible for the glacial-interglacial periods is unknown, but the most widely accepted theory is that proposed by Milankovitch that the cycles regulate due to changes in the earth's orbit rotation. The orbital mechanisms simply refer to the earth's orbit rotation which can be interpreted to the motion of earth in an orbit around the sun. This essay will firstly examine the changing global climate during the Quaternary Period such as Glacial-Interglacial periods and what they are, secondly the orbital mechanisms that have been controlling these cyclical changes such as the earth's orbital rotation and lastly the effect these cyclic changes can have on a global scale.Firstly, throughout the Quaternary Periods geological history, major ice ages are occurring over and over again in a regulated pattern of somewhat. The quaternary period over the last 2.6 million years has seen 20 of these fluctuating Glacial-interglacial periods. These periods can be sub-categorised into glacial periods and interglacial periods. A glacial period is an interval of time within an 'ice age' that the earth is covered by much colder average temperatures (around -10 degrees) which leads to many glacial advances to cover the earth's surface. The last glacial period was the most recent glacial period within the Pleistocene epoch, which began about 110,000 years ago and ended about 15,000 years ago (Adams, Maslin & Thomas, 1999). The glaciations that occurred during this glacial period covered many areas of the Northern Hemisphere. It can be seen that each glacial period persists for around 90,000 years which is then followed by a 10,000 year interglacial, which can be seen in the...

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