Earth's Tilt Influences Climate Change, Study Reveals New Findings

First Posted: Dec 15, 2015 11:44 AM EST

A team of international researchers found that the Earth's tilt shifts every 41,000 years, which influences some of the world's heaviest rain belt. The researchers carried out their study by examining data from the past 282,000 years. For the first time, there was a connection between the Earth's tilt, known as obliquity and the movement of a low pressure band of clouds, which is the Earth's largest source of heat and moistures - the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ).

"I took the data and put it through a mathematical prism so I could look at the patterns and that's where we see the obliquity cycle, that 41,000-year cycle," Kristine DeLong, coauthor of the study and paleoclimatologist from Louisiana State University, said in a news release. "From that, we can go in and look at how it compares to other records."

The researchers examined sediment cores from the Papua New Guinea coast along with stalagtite samples from ancient caves in China. The data analysis showed obliquity in the paleontological record and computer model data, according to the researchers.

The basic assumptions about how the Earth's orbit impacts climate change are referred to as Milankovitch cycles. During the Ice age, the Earth's tilt influenced the ice sheet formation, which resulted in a slow wobble that takes place on a 23,000-year cycle, when the Earth rotates around the Sun. This is known as precession, which influences the tropics and the shape of the Earth's orbit and it occurs on a 100,000-year cycle, where it controls the amount of energy that the Earth accumulates.

"This study was interesting in that when we started doing the spectral analysis, the 41,000-year tilt cycle started showing up in the Tropics. That's not supposed to be there. That's not what the textbooks tell us," said DeLong.

The researchers' study concludes that tilt of the Earth plays a major role in Intertropical Convergence Zone migration and it could enable scientists to make better global climate change predictions.

The findings of this study were published in the journal Nature Communications.

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