Earth’s Next Ice Age

June of 2012 will be known for its record setting rain.  From the devastating floods in Duluth to the inundating rains in Cannon Falls, most reporting sites statewide reported record rainfall.  A National Weather Service employee measured 10.10″ of rain in the northeastern part of Duluth during the 3-day heavy rain event of June 19-21.  Duluth’s past climate records indicate that a rain like this is extremely rare.  Recovery costs are estimated to be around $100 million.

Flooding in Scanlon near Cloquet, west of Duluth. Photo: Boyd Huppert

Those that have been studying Minnesota’s climate say that our weather is definitely changing.  Big weather events, when they happen, are more intense.  According to University of Minnesota meteorologist and climatology, Mark Seeley, ” In recent decades a larger fraction of our annual total precipitation is coming in the form of intense thunderstorms.”

When thinking about our change in climate I can’t help but wonder what role our earth’s orbit plays in global warming or cooling.  When talking about the summer solstice that just occurred on June 20, my father passed along an article he recently read on the subject.  There is a theory that three types of astronomical cycles bring about periods of extremely warm (global warming) and extremely cold (ice age) conditions.  The closeness of the earth to the sun might be a given when talking about global warming or cooling but what is more important is the closeness of the earth to the sun at a solstice.  As you may know, the earth’s orbit isn’t a perfect circle but more like a oblong ellipse.  Basically, the earth is closest to the sun at perihelion and farthest from the sun at aphelion.  At present time, aphelion will occur in early July which is two weeks past the June 20 summer solstice.  In this situation, the earth is farthest from the sun in summer.  Conversely, in January, the earth is closest to the sun in winter.  This current cycle makes the winters and summers fairly mild.  The perihelion and aphelion dates do change one calendar date in about 21,000 years.  The earth’s tilt and eccentricity cycle are the other two astronomical cycles that can bring about climate change.

Climatologists say that cooler summers in the Northern Hemisphere will eventually lead to global cooling but since the astronomical cycles and climate systems are slow to change, global warming/cooling could take thousands of years.  Just to give you an idea, recent calculations show that ice age conditions should increase in the next 25,000 years.  Therefore, we probably won’t be seeing any glaciers and woolly mammoths in our lifetime.


Keep thinking cool thoughts.  Summer heat is back late this week with little chance of rain the next few days.

Tuesday: Partly sunny. H: low 80s

Wednesday: Humidity increases slightly. H: mid 80s

Thursday: Summer heat returns. H: near 90°

Friday: Breezy and hot. H: near 90°

Saturday: Partly sunny. H: upper 80s

Sunday: Our next chance of rain.  Showers & thunderstorms. H: low 90s



2 thoughts on “Earth’s Next Ice Age

  1. I thought that I had read that last years earthquakes in Japan actually had an effect on the tilt of the earths axis, and I wonder what kind of changes we will see because of this.

  2. You’re right, Frank! The Japan earthquake did, indeed, shift the earth’s axis and alter the rotation. According to NASA, however, these subtle changes happen all the time, regardless of an earthquake, and shouldn’t impact our daily lives.

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