Ice Age: The Meltdown … The Real One

I know, I know. That this is what I thought of when I read this article just screams NERD, among other things.

The Warming of Greenland – The New York Times

Scientists are surprised, and a bit mystified, by the astonishingly rapid rate at which the Greenland ice sheet is melting. It has long been thought at the impact of global warming (whether you believe it to be a natural phenomena, a man-made disaster in the making, or a bit of both) upon the ice would be gradual. However, current events are contradicting established scientific theory.

Anyone with an ounce of common sense should be alarmed by the implications this accelerated glacial retreat on the modern world, especially if they live within, say, one hundred miles of the ocean. But what about the implications modern observations will have of Pleistocene Extinction theories.

I know, I know, a lot of the prevailing theories, especially here in North America (South America lost most of its native species when it connected with North America) state, simply, Blame People. The extinction event on this side of the Pond was rapid, and I’m sure that the appearance of humans disturbed the already precarious ecological balance. There is no escaping that. But mammoths, and other megafauna, needed the ice in order to survive.

You see, at the foot of the Great Ice Shelf, there was barely any snow. Rich loess encourages grasses to grow, a kind of arctic savanna or steppe. Mammoths, like their modern relatives, put away huge quantities of vegetation everyday. When the ice retreated so suddenly, as it now looks like it might have done, the huge megafauna could not adapt. Add to this was, of course, the advent of humanity, and, well, there you go.

(Interestingly, there is also evidence that an epidemic of tuberculosis was spreading through the mastodon population: Mastodons Driven to Extinction by Tuberculosis, Fossils Suggest.)

After mammoths, mastodons, giant bison, and other gargantuan herbivores started dying off, the huge carnivores like the saber-toothed cats, the American lion, and the American cheetah, soon followed.


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