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Keywords:

  • global warming

[1] The initiation of northern hemisphere ice sheets in the last 800 kyr appears to be closely controlled by minima in summer insolation forcing at 65°N. Beginning from an initial typical interglacial pCO2 of 280 ppm, the CLIMBER-2 model initiates an ice sheet in the Northern Hemisphere when insolation drops 0.7 σ (standard deviation) or 15 W/m2 below the mean. This same value is required to explain the history of climate using an orbitally driven conceptual model based on insolation and ice volume thresholds (Paillard, 1998). When the initial baseline pCO2 is raised in CLIMBER-2, a deeper minimum in summertime insolation is required to nucleate an ice sheet. Carbon cycle models indicate that ∼25% of CO2 from fossil fuel combustion will remain in the atmosphere for thousands of years, and ∼7% will remain beyond one hundred thousand years (Archer, 2005). We predict that a carbon release from fossil fuels or methane hydrate deposits of 5000 Gton C could prevent glaciation for the next 500,000 years, until after not one but two 400 kyr cycle eccentricity minima. The duration and intensity of the projected interglacial period are longer than have been seen in the last 2.6 million years.