Chapter summary

The aim of this chapter is to demonstrate the contribution of glacier research to the development of climate change theories. Firstly, the astronomical (Milankovitch) theory of climate variation is explained. Spectral analysis of long marine and terrestrial climatic records have revealed cycles of 100,000, 41,000 and 23,000/19,000 years. Different data sets have confirmed the hypothesis that changes in the orbital variables comprise the primary forcing mechanism for Quaternary climatic changes. In addition, the relationship between variations in atmospheric gas content and climate change is assessed. Furthermore, the evidence of volcanic activity and its effect on climate variations is discussed. Finally, variations in solar output and geodynamic factors are discussed in relation to climate and glacier variations. It is concluded that variations in atmospheric gas content, volcanic aerosols and solar irradiation are significant contributors to climate change. However, the cyclic nature of the most significant climatic variations during the Quaternary is difficult to explain entirely by geodynamic factors.

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