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How Major Geological Events End So-Called Glacial Periods

The very rapid and nearly instantaneous end of so-called glacial periods is very likely caused by massive, short-lived pulses of super-heated seawater emitted from major ocean faults termed spreading centers (Figure 1).

ocean floor major faults

Figure 1.) Major deep inner Earth reaching breaks in Earth’s outer crust (spreading centers) are shown as black lines surrounded by red and yellow shades. Shading indicates the age of the ocean floor lava flows that are expulsed from the spreading centers. Estimated maximum extent of glacial ice during glacial periods is shaded white and cross-hatched light blue (credit Estrada et. al. 2013, labeling and Ice Sheets by J. Kamis).

This bold claim is supported by reinterpretation and then integration of two research studies; Lamont Doherty University 2015and MIT 2019.

The Lamont Doherty research study concluded that well-known cyclical variations in Earth’s circumnavigation of the Sun, specifically eccentricity, axial tilt, and precession collectively known as Milankovitch Cycles, directly affect our climate by switching the climate status from warm interglacial periods to cool glacial periods.

Reinterpretation of certain portions of the Lamont Doherty research leads to the following explanation of exactly how Milankovitch Cycles act to switch Earth’s climate status back and forth between glacial and interglacial periods.

During a Milankovitch Cycle, two of Earth’s major rock layers, the outer crust, and upper mantle layers, are placed in a state of greatly increased gravitational stress. Outer-crust rock-layer segments termed tectonic plates respond to this increased stress by actively moving laterally or apart at a much faster rate.

This increased movement acts to violently fracture and open ocean floor spreading-center faults which form the boundaries of many tectonic plates. Now fractured and open spreading center faults tap downward into deep Earth hot lava chambers.

seafloor spreading

Figure 2) Illustration of seafloor spreading.

This process triggers major pulses of volcanism upward along the open faults and into the overlying ocean.

In addition to expulsing hot lava into the ocean floors, these volcanic pulses also emit massive amounts of super-heated and chemically charged (CO2 and methane) fluid into oceans and atmosphere.

The effect of these geologically induced volcanic pulses is to rapidly and almost instantaneously end so-called glacial periods.

This hypothesis is greatly strengthened by the conclusions of the April 2019 MIT study which demonstrated that the abrupt and nearly instantaneous end of so-called glacial periods is caused by geological forces, specifically the cyclical movement of tectonic plates.

Not specifically stated in their conclusions, but quite obvious is that attributing the end so-called glacial periods to atmospheric or solar forces is no longer correct!

Next, let’s look at historical atmospheric temperatures and CO2 concentrations during the last 400,000 years, which represents the last four so-called glacial and interglacial periods (Figure 3).

Historical atmospheric temperatures and CO2 concentrations.

Figure 3.) Historical atmospheric temperatures and CO2 concentrations.

Figure 3 graph demonstrates the following:

  • So-called glacial periods (blue hatched) end nearly instantaneously.
  • Duration of so-called interglacial periods (red shading) is 2-5,000 years.
  • The End of glacial periods occurs on a very regular basis, approximately every 100,000 years. it is important to note that the most intense Milankovitch Cycles occur every 100,000 years in time association with the end of glacial periods
  • Lastly, interglacial periods do not maintain constant, uniform atmospheric temperatures or CO2 concentrations. Rather, temperatures progressively cool through time and CO2 concentration progressively increase through time.

So why in this article are glacial and interglacial periods preceded with the phrase “so-called”?

Because reinterpretation and then integration of the MIT Study, Lamont Doherty Study, and other important data strongly indicates that there are no such things as glacial periods or interglacial periods.

There are only reoccurring geologically induced volcanic pulses that act to instantaneously interrupt and degrade Earth’s natural and normal climate status followed by a period when Earth attempts to recover from this geological event.

Immediately following these pulses, Earth begins to recover. A long-term recovery process that involves the complex interaction between many different oceanic, atmospheric, and land regions, each affecting the other in a back and forth fashion.

Therefore, during portions of this recovery process the magnitude and speed of certain oceanic, atmospheric, and land parameters alter their relation to one another.

For example, at certain times in the recovery process atmospheric temperatures are not aligned with corresponding atmospheric CO2 concentration.

This gives the impression CO2 concentrations “lag” corresponding temperatures. Not all, it’s just Earth adjusting/recovering in a complex fashion.

Eventually, Earth achieves a more or less stabilized/normal climate status which during the last 400,000 years can best be characterized as cool temperatures and extensive ice sheet coverage.

Stated in a more direct way, there are no such things as glacial periods, interglacial periods, or Ice Ages.

Instead, just a major geological event and then recovery to normal.

James Edward Kamis is a retired professional Geologist with 42 years of experience, a B.S. in Geology from Northern Illinois University (1973), an M.S. in geology from Idaho State University (1977), and a longtime member of AAPG who has always been fascinated by the connection between Geology and Climate. More than 14 years of research/observation have convinced him that the Earth’s Heat Flow Engine, which drives the outer crustal plates, is an important driver of the Earth’s climate as per his Plate Climatology Theory.