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.
In this study the global average surface temperature over the past 2 million years has been derived from deep sea cores. The results reveal that global cooling occurred about 300,000 years before the rapid ice sheet growth and the development of the first 100,000-year glacial/deglacial cycle about 800,000 years ago.
A recent study has created a simple mathematical rule that can account for the timing of the onset of interglacials following ice ages over the past three million years. The rule is based on predictable long-term astronomical variations in the Earth’s orbit and tilt called Milankovitch cycles.
Improved data coverage and analysis has made it possible to reconstruct temperature profiles across most ocean basins and at all depths to 6000 meters (m) from 1960 to 2015. The reconstructions reveal accelerating heating in the upper layers above 2000 m. Ocean warming is stronger since the late 1980s compared to the 1960s to the 1980s.