Click to viewSeveral thousand years from now, sheets of ice will cover most of the globe, plunging the Earth into a semi-permanent ice age. At least, that was Mother Nature’s plan. But a new study suggests that global warming caused by carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere may have staved off the most extreme ice age the world has ever seen. Unfortunately, climatologists warn, that isn’t exactly a good thing.Climate researchers at the University of Edinburgh have been creating models to predict the path of future climate events. In studying past ice ages, they have found that the ice ages have been lasting longer, and that the temperature extremes between the ice ages have become more pronounced. They predict that, without human intervention, the next ice age could have been the most profound in recent geological history, lasting more than a hundred thousand years. Global warming, however, may have postponed that super ice age indefinitely:

"Climate skeptics could look at this and say, CO2 is good for us," said study leader Thomas Crowley of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. But the idea that global warming may be staving off an ice age is "not cause for relaxing, because we're actually moving into a highly unusual climate state," Crowley added.

The challenge for climate scientists now is that the future climate will be extraordinarily difficult to predict, as the unnatural increase in carbon dioxide has left researchers with no model on which to base their predictions. [National Geographic]