A recent study of ice cores from Antarctica provides a climate record for the past 800,000 years. The analysis reveals that atmospheric carbon dioxide was strongly correlated with Antarctic temperature throughout eight glacial cycles.
Approximately 800,000 years ago something changed in the Earth’s climate system that led to the climate then following a series of approximately 100,000 year cycles. Small, predictable changes in the Earth’s orbit about the Sun act as triggers for the glacial and interglacial periods, but other factors such as ice sheet volume, CO2 concentration, and biological feedback mechanisms are also involved.
It is known that orbital forcing is involved in glacial/deglacial cycles but is insufficient by itself to explain the glacial/deglacial cycles. This study argues that a biological feedback mechanism kicks in when a threshold is reached and together with orbital forcing results in the sustained and rapidly increasing CO2 and surface temperature of a deglaciation.
In contrast to West Antarctica where several large glaciers have been losing ice for decades, East Antarctica glaciers have exhibited little evidence of ice loss but NASA’s latest detailed maps of East Antarctica ice velocity and elevation show that a number of glaciers have begun to lose ice over the past decade.