Science is fairly certain that there were “vegetarian cavemen,” but they didn't last. There was a pre-human species of man, who lived around 2.7 million to 1 million years ago, that many scientists think existed on a vegetarian diet. New research shows that the vegetarian branch of ancient humans died off long ago, while their meat-eating cousins lived on and thrived. The dietary specialization of this vegan leaning branch of early hominin is thought to have contributed to its demise because it was unable to adapt to the changing environmental conditions that took place approximately 1 million years ago. Perhaps there is a message in this for today's vegetarians—eat meat or you too will become extinct.
Heralded far and wide as a harbinger of global climate change, this year's record Arctic ice melt has the uninformed climate alarmists celebrating and the more knowledgeable scratching their heads. You see, this summer's ice retreat was predicted by no computer model and few scientists even though it possible. While climate scientists ponder what is wrong with their theories nature has carried on—no fuss, no muss, no drama. Circulation patterns are shifting and living creatures from zooplankton to megafauna are taking the change in stride. What has flummoxed environmental scientists is the simple and now demonstrated fact that successful life forms have a common trait—they are adaptable, something many scientists are not.
Over the past 50 years or so, the Antarctic Peninsula, the northernmost part of the mainland of Antarctica, has experienced rapid warming and the collapse of a number of ice shelves. A new temperature record derived from an ice core drilled on James Ross Island, has triggered a reassessment of what triggered the recent warming trends. This new core provides the best record of climate events on the peninsula going back at least 20,000 years, and may extend back as far as 50,000 years. From this new data a team of researchers has constructed the most detailed history of climate on the Antarctic Peninsula known to science and it has revealed a number of interesting things. Most important of these is the fact that this area undergoes bouts of rapid warming periodically and that things were at least as warm on the peninsula 2,000 years ago. So much for “unprecedented” warming on the Antarctic Peninsula.
There has been a wave of triumphal announcements by climate change proponents recently, almost giddy over the summer shrinkage of the Arctic ice sheet. “Lowest level ever!” they proclaim, thought that is not quite true. Nonetheless, The Arctic pack ice has been receding over the last decade or so, but that is only natural. You see, there is a well known, if poorly understood, linkage between the ice at the north pole and the ice in and around Antarctica—and the ice around Antarctica is doing quite well. Satellite radar altimetry measurements indicate that the East Antarctic ice sheet interior increased in mass by 45±7 billion metric tons per year from 1992 to 2003. This trend continues today, reinforcing recent scientific investigations into this millennial scale oscillation between the poles. According to studies, this is how things have been for hundreds of thousands of years.
A study of ancient volcanic ash found at key archaeological sites across Europe suggests that early modern humans were more resilient to climate change and natural disasters than commonly thought. The study, which appeared in PNAS, analyzed volcanic ash from a major eruption that occurred in Europe around 40,000 years ago. The volcano spewed so much ash that the event probably created winter-like conditions and a sudden colder shift in climate. Scientists have generally suggested that the spread of modern humans, and the decline of our cousins the Neanderthals, was primarily due to ancient volcanic eruptions and deteriorating climate conditions, but this study shows that stone-age man rolled with the punches and shrugged off the sudden shifts in climate. This new evidence flies in the face of modern predictions that a shift of a few degrees in average yearly temperature will decimate human populations world wide.
One of the main problems with the “theory” of anthropogenic global warming is its reliance on rising atmospheric CO2 levels to force a global rise in temperature. This is predicted by climate change proponents by running large, complex computer models that imperfectly simulate the physics of Earths biosphere: ocean, land and atmosphere. Central to tuning these general circulation models (GCM) is a parameter called climate sensitivity, a value that purports to capture in a single number the response of global climate to a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide. But it has long been known that the Earth system is constantly changing—interactions shifting and factors waxing and waning—so how can a simple linear approximation capture the response of nature? The answer is, it can not, as a new perspective article in the journal Science reports.
The subject of human carbon dioxide emissions and their build up in Earth's atmosphere is at the center of the anthropogenic global warming controversy. It cannot be denied that humans produce CO2 in large amounts, both from burning fossil fuels and from land use changes. This has led to much gnashing of teeth and renting of garments by excitable ecological doomsayers, but there is something they do not mention: at the same time humanity is spewing forth carbon, nature is busily sucking up that carbon and storing it away. A new analysis of the carbon cycle has produced an unexpected result—not only is the absorption of carbon continuing unabated it has actually expanded. The latest scientific tally indicates that since 1959, approximately 350 billion tons of carbon have been emitted by humans to the atmosphere, of which about 55% has been reabsorbed by the land and oceans.
Nowadays the energy picture is confusing at best as the more information we are shown the more blurred our vision seems to become. Mixed messages, poor reporting and a media hungry to sensationalize anything it thinks can grab a headline have led to many wondering what the true energy situation is. We hear numerous reports on how the shale revolution will transform the energy sector, why alternatives are just around the corner, why advances in oilfield extraction techniques and new finds will help to lower oil prices. Yet no sooner have we read these rosy reports than we are bombarded with negative news on the Middle East, on why alternatives will never compete, on peak oil and declining oil production.
With the IPCC getting ready to churn out yet another frightening report based on consensus science in 2013, it is interesting to note that many things have changed since the previous report (AR4). For example, oxidation is a major factor in atmospheric chemistry and can impact many environmental issues: stratospheric ozone loss, acidification of water and soil, air quality, cloud formation and, naturally, climate change. In the AR4 report the only atmospheric oxidation factors included were ozone (O3), the hydroxyl radical (OH) and the nitrate radical (NO3). In a recent scientific report, measurements from a Finnish forest revealed a previously unknown atmospheric oxidant that promotes production of sulfuric acid—one of the main precursors for the formation and growth of aerosol particles and clouds. Scientists are still unsure what this mysterious chemical compound is, they refer to it as oxidant X.
Another group of researchers has weighed in on the continuing scientific scuffle over whether the Himalayan glaciers are melting. A letter to Nature Geoscience reports that the Karakoram glaciers, a part of the greater Himalaya north of the actual Himalaya Range, are actually gaining mass. Outside the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, the Karakoram is the most heavily glaciated part of the world, containing nearly 3% of the planet's total ice area. But because they are so large, difficult to get to and dangerous to travel on, they have not been measured by conventional survey methods. Scientists have instead, been relying on satellite measurements, whose accuracy is now called into question. This impressive new study says that the Karakoram glaciers are not only not shrinking, they are accumulating enough ice each year to cause a slight decrease in ocean sea-level.
That large changes in solar radiation can affect Earth's climate is widely accepted. However, the hypothesis of solar-induced centennial to decadal climate changes, which suggests feedback mechanisms in the climate system amplifying even small solar variations, has not found acceptance among orthodox climate scientists. The climate change clique would rather place their money on greenhouse gasses—human generated CO2 in particular. It is true that satellite-based measurements of total solar irradiance show that mean variations during solar cycles do not exceed 0.2 W m−2 (~ 0.1% of the Sun's energy output). It has also been noted that relatively large variations of 5–8% in the ultraviolet (UV) frequencies can occur, though how this could change global climate remained a puzzlement—but perhaps no longer. From studying a significant climate shift 2,800 years ago, a group of scientists have concluded that large changes in solar UV radiation can, indeed, affect climate by inducing atmospheric changes.
A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Early Edition on-line), is shaking up science's view of polar bear evolution. Previously, it had been suggested that the white bear of the north was a relatively young species that diverged from brown bears during the last glacial period. That glaciation started after the Eemian epoch (~125,000 years ago), peaking around 25,000 years ago. New genetic analysis pushes that estimated divergence back to 4-5 million years ago, though there seems to have been a significant level of interbreeding between the two species over time. Another important finding is that the polar bear population underwent a significant contraction around 500,000 years ago. According to this new information the polar bear has been around for much longer than previously thought, implying that it has survived many interglacial warm periods. In other words, those who think the polar bear cannot survive the shrinking of Arctic ice packs are dead wrong.
Melting glaciers are once again in the news, along with the associated threat of rising sea levels. NASA satellites have reported wide spread melting across Greenland which has the climate change alarmists all atwitter. But the NASA satellites are providing data never before available, so it is hard to say if the summer melting pattern is unusual. Meanwhile, some 80 year old scientific data has revealed that this is not the first time that there has been a period of glacial retreat in Greenland. This formerly lost data shows that many land-terminating glaciers underwent a more rapid retreat in the 1930s than in the 2000s. Even more interesting is that the two periods of retreat were interrupted by a period of widespread advance from 1943 to 1972. Greenland's glaciers seem to be oscillating with a period of around a century.
The last interglacial period (LIG)—the Eemian—is commonly believed by scientists to have been warmer than the current Holocene interglacial. Along with that balmier climate there is evidence that sea levels were significantly higher than today. Previous studies have pegged Eemian sea levels at 4 to 6m higher than today. Recently, a new investigation raises that estimate, reporting that ancient sea levels peaked between 6.6 and 9.4 m (~20 to 30 feet). Modern day accounts of flooding in low lying coastal areas and tropical islands abound, with ominous suggestions of links to global warming. How high the oceans will rise is a topic of debate for IPCC members, the news media and assorted climate alarmists, but they are asking the wrong question. Instead, they should ask why are sea levels so low?
Between 15 and 20 million years (Myr) ago, Earth's climate took a pause during its long slide into the Pleistocene Ice Age for a period of real global warming. During this relatively brief time glaciers around the world retreated and there are indications that, at least around the edges of the continent, there was significant vegetation on Antarctica. Temperatures may have been as high as 11°C higher than today. Scientists say this global warm spell took place under under CO2 levels in the range of 190–850 ppmv, both significantly higher and lower than today's 390 ppmv. It is hoped that studying conditions during the Miocene warming can provide constraints on the fundamental laws governing the climate system. Why? If the Pleistocene Ice Age is truly coming to an end, as some have said, this may be the climate of the future.