"The Earth Seen From Apollo 17" by NASA / Public Domain

Earth’s Tilt May Exacerbate a Melting Antarctic

Jan 16, 2019

By Stephanie Pappas

As levels of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide rise and warm the globe, Antarctica’s ice will become more vulnerable to cycles on an astronomical scale, particularly the tilt of our planet is as it spins around its axis.

New research finds that over 30 million years of history, Antarctica’s ice sheets responded most strongly to the angle of Earth’s tilt on its axis when the ice extends into the oceans, interacting with currents that can bring warm water lapping at their margins and leading to increased melting. The effect of the tilt peaked when carbon dioxide levels were similar to what scientists predict for the next century, if humans don’t get emissions under control.

As carbon dioxide levels push past 400 parts per million, the climate will become more sensitive to the Earth’s tilt, or obliquity, researchers reported Jan. 14 in the journal Nature Geoscience.

“Really critical is the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere,” said study co-author Stephen Meyers, a paleoclimatologist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

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