Environment Surging Methane Suggests Earth Is Brewing An Ice Age Termination Event

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Methane levels are currently sky-high, just like they were during Earth's previous termination events.

The past 17 years have seen some unusual rises in levels of methane gas in Earth’s atmosphere – and this surge might be a messenger for something bigger, according to new research. It’s not certain what this methane increase means exactly, but scientists argue it’s reminiscent of past “termination events" in Earth’s climate system that have ended ice ages.

Earth’s climate constantly swings between long and cold glacial periods – often called ice ages – where vast ice sheets cover northern Europe and Canada, and shorter inter-glacial periods of warmer temperatures. This happens on a giant timescale of thousands upon thousands of years, much longer than a human lifespan.

The end of these ice ages is known as a glacial termination, an overhaul of Earth’s ocean-atmosphere system that marks the transition from a glacial-to-interglacial period. This is another lengthy process that typically takes thousands of years.

Currently, we are in an interglacial stage of an ice age called the Quaternary Ice Age, which began around 2.5 million years ago and continues today. However, there are hints that some kind of change could be brewing. Looking at Earth’s methane levels, there are some indications that we might be in the early days of a “termination-like” pattern.

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