There is a constant stream of scientific studies that report on melting ice in various parts of the world. Some from mountain glaciers, some from the arctic pack ice, some from Greenland, and some from the mother-load of glacial ice, Antarctica. Antarctica, the continent that covers Earth's south pole, contains more frozen water than all other deposits of glacial ice on the planet combined. The collapse of the Antarctic ice shelves, causing oceans to rise and all sorts of climate mayhem, is a favorite theme of climate alarmists everywhere. Unfortunately for them, new reports tell a different story. It seems that the Antarctic Peninsula has actually cooled over the past two decades. Moreover, all the hoopla about this being the hottest year ever is contradicted by findings from Antarctic ice cores that during the Eemian, the last interglacial (LIG; 130,000–115,000 years ago), global climate was warmer than today and global mean sea level was 6-9 m higher. Sorry to dampen the hysteria with actual science.
Once again climate scientists have put forth a scary prediction about melting ice caps and once again they are portraying output from computer models as a reliable prediction of things to come. The normally staid and reliable journal Nature emblazoned its cover with “Rising tide” in large black print, with the subtext “A 500-year model of Antarctica's contribution to future sea-level rise” in smaller print below. When a closer look is taken at this new model it turns out to be a house of cards, incomplete and built on top of other climate change models that are known to be faulty. As the old saying goes: garbage in, garbage out. Yet a major science journal chose this piece of computerized legerdemain as its lead article. No wonder that climate alarmists, and climate science in general, have fallen into such ill repute.
In the year 536 AD the sun dimmed, and the gloom lasted for more than an entire year. There were frosts and snows in the middle of summer and observers reported that winter never really ended. The sudden shift in climate lead to famine, plague and the fall of empires. What was worse, that year was only the beginning of a shift in climate that brought misery to the entire Northern Hemisphere for more than a century. Yet this well documented period of global cooling was smoothed away by climate change alarmists in works of fabricated data like the infamous “hockey stick” tree ring history. A new analysis has rediscovered this dark period in recent human history, fittingly made possible by new tree-ring measurements from the Altai mountains in Russia. The results help complete a climatological history stretching back 2,500 years. Climate history is a pesky thing, it just won't go away and can't be changed to fit some scientists pet theories.
Mixed in with the swirling cloud of misinformation about global warming is also a bit of blather regarding the onset of a new Ice Age. What the promoters of a new big freeze are talking about is a glacial period, since technically we are still in the midst of an ice age—the Pleistocene. A number of scientists have warned that the planet might be headed for a new period of glacial growth based on Earth's recent history. Over the past half million or so years there has been a series of short (15-20k year) warm period sandwiched between longer (70-100k year) glacial episodes. Make no mistake, global cooling is much worse than global warming, so this really matters to our descendants and the whole human race. Now, a new study in Nature says that we maybe off the hook, glacial wise. Not only that, human activity might be the reason.
A number of media outlets picked up a story recently about increasing swarms of giant mosquitoes endangering caribou and blotting out the Arctic Sun. Evidently this all came from a research report that stated the obvious, a longer, warmer summer would lead to a longer mosquito season in the Arctic. Having lived in Alaska, I can verify that the mosquitoes there are huge and their swarms can almost blot out the Sun, or at least it seems that way if you are getting bit. The problem here is that there is no evidence that there are more or larger mosquitoes emerging from the tundra of the north lands. This is yet another case of airhead news writers misunderstanding the facts or twisting them to fit their desired narrative.
We have all heard about the Ice Age, if only in cartoon movies. A time when massive ice sheets covered the planet while mammoths and saber toothed cats roamed the frozen landscape. What is more, the cycle of interglacial-glacial-interglacial has happened over and over again during the past million or so years. During the last half a million years the cycle has repeated every 130,000 years, with the warm period we are now enjoying—the Holocene—just the latest interglacial respite from the icy conditions of the Pleistocene Ice Age. What most people don't know is that there were many areas on Earth that remained unchanged, even during the height of the last glacial period. The Sahara was hot and dry, and in the Amazon rainforests, though a bit smaller in area, looked much like they do today.
A lot has been written about melting ice caps and new mini-ice ages recently. Seems that science can't decide if we are going to drown in rising oceans or starve because summer will be a thing of the past. This leaves the layperson justifiably confused as to who to believe—the climate change alarmists who back rapid global warming or those who warn of a new glacial period. There is little certainty when it comes to science but one thing that can be counted on is our ignorance. Quite simply, scientists cannot predict with any certainty what Earth's climate will do next. If someone tries to tell you different they are lying.
The term “settled science” gets tossed around in the media a lot these days. Mostly by non-scientists, who know no better, and by some errant scientists, who should. In 2002, the U.S. National Research Council Committee on Abrupt Climate Change published its findings in a book entitled Abrupt Climate Change: Inevitable Surprises. A new report in Science recaps the surprising discoveries made since then, and they are big. So big that ocean circulation models, integral parts of all climate models, do not accurately predict reality. The observed change in AMOC strength was found to lie well outside the range of interannual variability predicted by coupled atmosphere-ocean climate models. Sounds like circulation in the Atlantic Ocean is not so settled.
News media around the world have been all abuzz, with headlines declaring “Irreversible collapse of Antarctic glaciers has begun” and “West Antarctic Ice Sheet collapse is under way.” The “rapid” collapse threatens to cause sea level change of 4 to 13 feet. Calamity will surely follow. “Collapse will change the coastline of the whole world” shrieked the UK's Guardian, always a good source for mindless rumor mongering. What they are referring to are a pair of new reports that say the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) has pushed its way over a submerged ridge that had been impeding its forward progress, causing the ice sheet to become unstuck from the sea floor. The WAIS is now flowing more freely, and hence more rapidly, into the sea. What the alarmist headlines don't say is that any impacts from this change are centuries to millennia in the future.
One of the scary scenarios frequently trotted out by climate change alarmists is the possible shutdown of the ocean currents in the Atlantic Ocean. This would disrupt northern hemisphere climate, particularly in Europe. Indeed, one Hollywood disaster movie had frozen military helicopters falling from the skies in the UK and Manhattan buried under a tsunami of ice. We are told this could happen at any time, if the world gets too hot from all that CO2 our species is churning out. Now a shocking new paper in the journal Science implies that the standard view of a relatively stable interglacial circulation may not hold for conditions warmer/fresher than at present. Why? Because it happened before, over 100,000 years ago, without the help of man made global warming. Another catastrophic climate threat is shown to be totally natural and to have happened before our species began burning coal and driving SUVs.
Climate alarmists are constantly warning that Earth is going to warm up, driven they say by the level of CO2 in the atmosphere. To bolster their claims they point to the Pliocene, a time 4-5 million years ago, when the planet was 4-8°C hotter and CO2 levels were 400ppm or higher. This is the climate we are heading for, the global warming supporters say—but it that really true? Superficially it seems a plausible assertion, but as it turns out there is much more here than CO2 and temperature. It is not just the average temperature but the distribution of temperature at different latitudes, both over land and sea, that controls the climate. It is the temperature gradient that drives storms and affects weather patterns and it was much different during the Pliocene. Moreover, climate models do not generate a Pliocene like climate when run with higher CO2 levels, which means climate scientists are missing something important about the way Earth's climate system works.
Scientists have long suspected that the orbital cycles of our planet are responsible for the periodic climate variation that causes alternating glacial and interglacial periods. Milankovitch's theory of orbital cycles suggests that summer insolation at high northern latitudes drives the glacial cycles. Moreover, statistical analyses have demonstrated that the glacial cycles are indeed linked to eccentricity, obliquity and precession. Now, researchers have confirmed that a combination of two of the Milankovitch cycles conspire to start and stop ice ages. The 100,000-year eccentricity cycle amplifies the influence of the 23,000-year wobble of Earth's spin axis called precession. The new modeling also suggests that the great accumulation of mass by the North American ice sheet causes the abrupt end of glacial periods. CO2 is involved, but is not determinative, in the evolution of the 100,000-year glacial cycles say the scientists.
For some reason a lot of people have become fixated on Antarctic ice—is it waxing or waning, accumulating or melting. Climate alarmists have striven mightily to show that ice at the poles in on the decline, melting in the face of rising global temperatures. Antarctica, with the largest store of glacial ice on the planet, is the primary focus of attention. If Antarctica’s ice sheets were to melt it would be a calamity for mankind. Unfortunately, Earth's climate system contains many cyclic trends, operating on decadal and longer periods of time. In the past, what some claim are clear trends have turned out to be only short term in nature. A new report, just published online, concludes that it is unclear if changes in atmospheric circulation over West Antarctica during the past few decades are part of a longer-term trend. In fact, ice cores reveal a significant increase in the oxygen isotopes from precipitation over the past 50 years, but the anomaly cannot be distinguished from natural climate variability.
Gas prices, oil sands, fracking and the Canadian pipeline have all thrust energy back into the headlines. Politicians posture, eco-alarmists protest and those global warming fanatics continue to predict the end of the world as we know it. If you are tired of the hype and disinformation, if you really want to understand energy—where it comes from, how it works and how much of it the world has—then you need a copy of The Energy Gap. In this follow-on to The Resilient Earth, Hoffman and Simmons address the world's energy questions with the same wit and erudition displayed in their previous work. Even better, in honor of April 15th, tax day in the US, you can now download a copy of The Energy Gap for free from Amazon.
It's everywhere on Earth, on the other planets and moons of the solar system, and even in comets from deep space. It is the frozen form of water, commonly called ice. Something so ubiquitous and familiar, one would think that science knows a lot about ice. It turns out science knows less than we might suppose. In a commentary in the journal Nature, an ice scientist raises ten open questions about ice. For example, the article states: “We cannot predict with certainty when and where ice clouds will form in the atmosphere; areas of the sky remain humid when we would expect them to freeze.” Ice is a fundamental part of Earth's climate, yet these questions and others remain unanswered. How can climate science claim to predict the fate of the polar ice sheets or mountain glaciers when we do not really understand the substance that they are made of?