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Orbital forcing is the effect on climate of slow changes in the
tilt of the Earth's axis and shape of the orbit (see Milankovitch
cycles). These orbital changes change the total amount of sunlight
reaching the Earth by up to 25% at mid-latitudes (from 400 to 500
Wm 2 at latitudes of 60 degrees). In this context, the term
"forcing" signifies a physical process that affects the Earth's
climate. This mechanism is believed to be responsible for the
timing of the ice age cycles. A strict application of the
Milankovitch theory does not allow the prediction of a "sudden" ice
age (rapid being anything under a century or two), since the
fastest orbital period is about 20,000 years. The timing of past
glacial periods coincides very well with the predictions of the
Milankovitch theory, and these effects can be calculated into the
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