What is Natural Global Warming?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

Natural global warming is a very sticky subject in the modern world. With a lot of focus on raising awareness about greenhouse gases, carbon levels, and green lifestyles, some may mistakenly get the message that all global warming is created by humans. To the contrary, the Earth has a history of natural climate change that creates warm and cool cycles. While most experts believe that human activity may be primarily responsible for modern climate change, natural global warming may also contribute to rising temperatures and other climate change issues.

Long ago, the Thames river in England would freeze enough to allow ice skating.
Long ago, the Thames river in England would freeze enough to allow ice skating.

From what scientists can determine about the planet's ancient history, temperature cycles on the Earth are usually fairly stable, but may experience sudden rises or drops in temperature at the beginning and end of ice ages. The sudden increase of global temperature is what allows glaciers to retreat and more temperate climates to establish in what were once realms of ice. This natural global warming may be a result of several planetary adjustments both on the surface and in space.

In recorded history, temperature anomalies similar to global warming have popped up from time to time, long before humans were producing untold amounts of greenhouse gases. During the medieval age, northern areas in Europe and Asia experienced a significant warming trend. Unfortunately, there are few scientific sources that can serve as evidence of the scope of this period of natural global warming, but it is largely considered to be an established event. Similarly, in the Middle Ages, the world experienced a brief cooling period sometimes called a baby or little ice age. There are many accounts of being able to ice skate on rivers such as the Thames in southern England, a feat impossible in the modern era.

It seems clear that some natural global warming can occur. Scientists have several advanced theories on which factors may contribute to the periodic warming and cooling of the planet, although there seems to be little evidence about whether these factors are influencing global warming today. Climate change is largely affected by the thickness of the atmospheric layer and how well the sun can penetrate it, therefore natural global warming is the result of changes to these factors.

The Earth orbits the sun almost like a spinning top, changing the angle at which it leans in or out over vast periods of time. This can affect celestial navigation; due to this process there have been eras where the North Star was not actually due north. It can also affect the amount of sunlight the planet receives, contributing, many experts believe, to the planet's early ice ages. Similarly, the Sun is not a constantly burning body and may experience some change in intensity that can affect conditions on Earth. The third factor believed to potentially cause natural global warming is periods of intense volcanic activity on the surface of the planet. By altering the composition of the atmosphere for a long period of time, climate change can occur.

While natural global warming does appear to be an established fact, many experts agree it cannot be responsible for the immense change in planetary function since the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century. Since that time, humans have massively increased production of greenhouse gases, leading to serious changes in the atmosphere. The presence and history of natural global warming suggests that huge changes occur on the Earth when the climate alters, but that life generally adapts and survive. By doing whatever necessary to reduce and counteract man made global warming, human life may be able to weather the storms.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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