Imagine the Earth Entering an Ice Age

The Earth is presently in an interglacial period—a period between ice ages.  Since the end of the last ice age, Earth’s surface temperatures have been above the temperature needed to maintain ice sheets and glaciers, which covered much of the land masses at mid-to-high latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere. As a result, those ice sheets and glaciers have been melting for tens of thousands of years and sea levels have risen…and will continue to rise until the start of the next ice age.

Many of us are old enough to remember the scare stories from the 1970s, a time when climate scientists were warning that Earth was returning to an ice age.

For fun, imagine the multidecadal uptick in global surface temperatures didn’t happen from the 1970s to present—that global surfaces actually cooled a comparable amount, that sea levels were dropping, that glaciers and ice sheets were gaining mass.

Would mankind still be blamed?  What would be different?


About Bob Tisdale

Research interest: the long-term aftereffects of El Niño and La Nina events on global sea surface temperature and ocean heat content. Author of the ebook Who Turned on the Heat? and regular contributor at WattsUpWithThat.
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12 Responses to Imagine the Earth Entering an Ice Age

  1. As I recall, it was blamed on us. Back in the ’70s, when the new ice age was being predicted, one of the major contributors to the cooling of the world was said to be air pollution blocking sunlight. It would be hard to maintain this stand today, what with the significantly cleaner air we now have, but if we can blame human-created CO2 for global warming, despite 18 years of stable temperatures, I’m sure a way could be found to blame air pollution for encroaching glaciers despite decades of clean air.

  2. Bob Tisdale says:

    Imagine all of the whiny scare stories, but in reverse. This should be fun.

  3. C02 couldn’t be the culprit. As I mentioned, in the’70s the inevitable ice age was being caused by particulates in the air absorbing sunlight. The cleaner air we enjoy now, however, would shift the blame from us to natural causes. To keep to the air pollution party line, it would be necessary to discover where the sunlight was going (“We cannot account for the missing missing-sunlight,” writes one climate scientist to another, “and it’s a travesty we can’t.”) Still, it wouldn’t be much of a reach to claim that while the visible pollution was less than it had been, there was invisible pollution that was invisibly shielding the Earth from much of the sunlight — sunlight that may well be hiding in the deep ocean.

  4. Norman Page says:

    As a guide to the timing and extent of the likely coming cooling based on the natural 60 and 1000 year periodicities in the temperature data and using the 10Be and neutron monitor data as the most useful proxy for solar “activity” check the series of posts at
    The post at
    is a good place to start. One of the first things impressed upon me in tutorials as an undergraduate in Geology at Oxford was the importance of considering multiple working hypotheses when dealing with scientific problems. This is really what Bob is suggesting . With regard to climate this would be more than a fun exercise of the imagination but a proper use of the precautionary principle .-The worst scientific error of the climate establishment is their unshakeable faith in their meaningless model outputs and their refusal to estimate the possible impacts of a cooling rather than a warming world and then consider what strategies might best be used in adapting to the eventuality that cooling actually develops.

  5. gymnosperm says:

    Yes, it’s like we are the accused in a Salem witch trial. We WILL be found guilty of something and it matters not what. It seems to be something like people in the middle ages who would flail themselves while on pilgrimage. The church tried to stop it with little success, but it was the church that preached the pilgrimages and crusades in the first place.

    We embarked on a crusade to save the planet, and even as all evidence indicates we are succeeding, the self flagellation continues.

  6. majormike1 says:

    As natural solar cycles warm the Earth, eventually the Arctic becomes ice free and provides the moisture necessary to create huge snowstorms that eventually become ice sheets extending over most of present-day Canada and the northern parts of the US. As ice sheets grow, sea levels fall rapidly, leaving all major coastal shipping centers far from the sea. San Franciscans must go over 20 miles west to visit a beach. The whole process continues until the Arctic Ocean sea level falls over 400 feet, and shallow channels disappear. Left without a source of warm water, the Arctic ices over and ice sheets start retreating. After 100,000 years of huge ice sheets, a 25,000 year warm period ensues, and then the process starts all over again. Lucky us. We still have 10,000 years of comfortable warmth until humanity freezes its butt off again.

  7. Would mankind still be blamed? What would be different?
    Yes, and all. We would be blamed because we are the only ones left in the “crime scene”, and starvation and forced migrations would be the norm.

  8. Tom O says:

    Norman says – “The worst scientific error of the climate establishment is their unshakeable faith in their meaningless model outputs and their refusal to estimate the possible impacts of a cooling rather than a warming world and then consider what strategies might best be used in adapting to the eventuality that cooling actually develops.”

    Norman, their “unshakable faith” is proof positive that the models are a tool to deenergize the world and reduce population. No scientist has such unshakeable faith. It is a propaganda tool only, and is cover for “depopulation by natural causes.”

  9. mwhite says:

    The next ice age will not start for 10,000yrs some say 20,000yrs

    What makes this interglacial so much longer than the previous 4??????

  10. majormike1 says:

    Previous interglacials were about 25,000 years long. It’s been about 12,000 years since the end of the last glacial. If you add another 10,000 years, this interglacial will be roughly the same 25,000 years as previous ones. It’s difficult to pick beginning and ending points with precision, but this one will probably end up in the same ballpark as previous ones. Check in 10,000 years to find out.

  11. kuhnkat says:

    Actually majormike1, the average interglacial is about 10,000 years. We are about to go if you believe that stuff. Hope you have been investing in furs.

  12. majormike1 says:

    The Eemian lasted 17,000 years (131-117K BP), and four of the latest interglacials, including this one, have lasted over 12 years, and the longest was 23 years (418-395K BP). So we have the present, at 12k and running, then the Eemian at 17k, a shorty at 4k, then 12k, then 23k. The average of the last five interglacials is 14,000 years, and growing until this Holocene interglacial ends. Within each interglacial are climatic optimums, and “the climatic optimum occurred during the Subboreal (5 to 2.5 ka BP, which corresponds to 3000 BC-500 BC) and Atlanticum (9 to 5 ka, which corresponds to roughly 7000 BC-3000 BC). Our current climatic phase following this climatic optimum is still within the same interglacial (the Holocene). This warm period was followed by a gradual decline until about 2,000 years ago, with another warm period until the Little Ice Age (1250-1850).” Our present warm period is a natural recovery from the Little Ice Age, the coldest period of this interglacial, and like preceding warm periods within this interglacial, should last several hundred years – it’s only 165 years old so far. Since I doubt, given current technologies, that I will live several hundred more years, I think I will invest elsewhere than furs – summer clothes and sunscreen should continue to be in demand.

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