, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 117-138

The Earth's Climate in the Next Hundred Thousand years (100 kyr)

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Abstract

One of the most striking features of the Quaternary paleoclimate records remains the so-called 100-kyr cycle which is undoubtedly linked to the future of our climate. Such a 100-kyr cycle is indeed characterised by long glacial periods followed by a short-interglacial (∼10–15 kyr long). As we are now in an interglacial, the Holocene, the previous one (the Eemian, which corresponds quite well to Marine Isotope Stage 5e, peaking at ∼125 kyr before present, BP) was assumed to be a good analogue for our present-day climate. In addition, as the Holocene is 10 kyr long, paleoclimatologists were naturally inclined to predict that we are quite close to the next ice age. Simulations using the 2-D climate model of Louvain-la-Neuve show, however, that the current interglacial will most probably last much longer than any previous ones. It is suggested here that this is related to the shape of the Earth's orbit around the Sun, which will be almost circular over the next tens of thousands of years. As this is primarily related to the 400-kyr cycle of eccentricity, the best and closest analogue for such a forcing is definitely Marine Isotopic Stage 11 (MIS-11), some 400 kyr ago, not MIS-5e. Because the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere also plays an important role in shaping long-term climatic variations – especially its phase with respect to insolation – a detailed reconstruction of this previous interglacial from deep sea and ice records is urgently needed. Such a study is particularly important in the context of the already exceptional present-day CO2 concentrations (unprecedented over the past million years) and, even more so, because of even larger values predicted to occur during the 21st century due to human activities.