Little Ice Age
The world is entering the 16th year of the greatest climate science embarrassment in modern history—the pause in global warming. Despite rising IPCC confidence levels and hundreds of computer model predictions, that darned old climate is just not behaving like the boffins say it should. After all, CO2 keeps rising, and we all know that CO2 drives Earth's climate like the thermostat in a house... or not. No longer able to sweep the lack of warming under the observational rug, the climate change community had started flailing about for answers: the heat must be hiding deep in the ocean, it must be soot from China, some have even begun to wonder whether there is something wrong with their models. Most are still convinced that the missing heat is hidden somewhere because they will not accept the simplest explanation—the theory of Anthropogenic Global Warming is fundamentally incorrect.
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.
Science is supposed to be unbiased, seeking to understand the workings of nature untainted by the personal beliefs or prejudices of its practitioners. Nature alone is the arbiter of truth—when science and nature disagree it is science that is wrong. But science is practiced by human beings, who cannot keep their beliefs, whether engendered by religious, philosophical, or political leanings, from skewing any result that is equivocal or highly complex. Presented here are two examples taken from the pages of Nature, perhaps the world's primer scientific journal. One is a rehash of temperature history in northern latitudes with a new statistical twist, the other a report on a study regarding fracking. One shows how what scientists leave out of their studies may be more important than what they put in. The other shows how a headline can spin the results of a report even when its authors are carefully neutral in their conclusions.
There was much made in the media about a new report that claims modern day temperatures are the highest in 5,000 years. Moreover, the investigators assert that this century's temperature rise is “unprecedented,” echoing the assertions of climate change alarmists over the past 30 years. Various news outlets seized upon this report as final proof that the world is headed for a hot steamy demise because of human greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. There are, however, a number of problems with that assertion. First among them is the methodology used to generate the global temperature history and the comparison of proxy data with instrument data from recent times. This may be science but it is being used to deceive the public into believing that anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is a crisis on an unprecedented scale.
NASA says that something unexpected is happening on the Sun. This year, 2013, is supposed to be the peak of the 11-year sunspot cycle—the year of Solar Max. Yet solar activity is well below the expected level. Out somnolent star refuses to behave according to the predictions of Sun watching scientists, leading some observers to wonder if forecasters missed the mark. The botched solar forecast not only has implication for our understanding of the physical processes inside the Sun, it has possible links to future climate change here on Earth. Scientists admit that no one knows for sure what the Sun will do next.
Once again the fear-mongering hoards of lay-climatologists are denouncing the importance of the Medieval Warm Period (MWP), or Medieval Climate Optimum as some refer to it. On the strength of a single new study, involving algal lipids from a lake in Svalbard, Norway, one pundit referred to the “so-called” Medieval Warm Period and impugned the significance of the Little Ice Age for good measure. Of course the writer, an “ecological journalist,” saw nothing wrong with using such a dismissive and pejorative term since it is IPCC promoted doctrine that today things are warmer than they have ever been since the onset of the Holocene. Yet literally hundreds of other studies have shown that the MWP was as warm or warmer than today and that is the real consensus among paleoclimatologists.
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.
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.
Many of the more strident reports regarding runaway global warming center on rapid ice loss from the glaciers of Greenland. During the early 2000s the Greenland Ice Sheet experienced the largest ice-mass loss since accurate instrument readings have been kept. This was largely caused by the acceleration, thinning and retreat of large outlet glaciers in West and southeast Greenland. Now a new study in Nature Geoscience confirms that ice loss from the Helheim Glacier between 2003 and 2005 was the worst recorded—at least since the last period of rapid ice loss during the late 1930s.
No phenomenon in astronomy has been studied more closely than solar flares, gigantic eruptions on the Sun that can affect Earth's climate and even disrupt power grids. Scientists have been watching the Sun with ground based instruments and orbiting satellites for years, so it might be thought that we know a lot about such eruptions. Well think again. A new report from NASA has revealed that, like earthquakes, solar flares often have aftershocks. Moreover, the aftershocks can emit bursts of ultraviolet (UV) radiation more powerful than the original eruption. Combine this new finding with the recently uncovered linkage between fluctuating UV levels and El Niño, and the Sun-Climate connection looks stronger than ever.
Tracking the flow of ice in the Arctic is difficult. Reconstructing the extent and flow in times past is even more difficult. An interesting new report has turned to driftwood, embedded in the Arctic pack ice, as a way of deciphering Arctic climate conditions over the last 10,000 years. The researchers found a climate record that is in good agreement with previous histories, including such events as the Medieval Warm Period, the Little Ice Age and the Holocene Thermal Maximum. In fact, they found temperatures during the HTM to be 2° to 4°C higher than today. They also found a complementarity oscillation in sea-ice abundance between East and West that is not correctly simulated by current ice models.
Much fanfare was associated with the reappearance of sunspots earlier this year, marking the beginning of a new period of high solar activity. Now come a number of reports saying the Sun is most likely headed for a prolonged period of low activity, possibly rivaling the Maunder minimum. Three independent studies of the Sun's dynamics all predict that the next solar cycle will be significantly delayed and might even be skipped. The Maunder minimum is associated with a prolonged period of climate cooling known as the Little Ice Age. Whether Earth's climate is headed for a significant cooling trend has become a matter of heated debate, while at the same time NASA is warning that a quite Sun can also be a deadly Sun. In the 1850s, following a period of low sunspot activity, the largest coronal ejection event ever witnessed caused havoc with telegraphs and ship's compasses around the world. Such an ejection today could cause widespread power outages and failure of electronic equipment. Will our star turn both quiet and deadly?
Beginning in 2008, sunspots almost completely disappeared for two years. Solar activity dropped to hundred-year lows and the Sun’s magnetic field weakened, allowing cosmic rays to penetrate the Solar System in record numbers. More troubling, Earth's upper atmosphere cooled and collapsed by an unprecedented amount. Solar physicists openly wondered what was happening to our neighborhood star. Now, an international team of scientists funded by NASA claims to have figured out what was going on. Their explanation was just published in the March 3, 2011, edition of Nature.
For decades, climate change alarmists have generated a host of doomsday scenarios, all based on the theory of anthropogenic global warming: human CO2 emissions will force Earth's climate to warm uncontrollably causing all manner of unpleasantness. A new study, published by the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, addresses the major predicted effects of global warming head on. Making extensive use of peer reviewed research papers, the dire predictions of climate alarmists are demolished point by point. In fact, the authors conclude that rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations associated with the development of the Industrial Revolution have actually been good for the planet.
With massive floods in Australia and Brazil, and bitter winter weather across the Northern Hemisphere, climate change alarmists have been quick to blame the severe weather on global warming. The fact that such weather is well within normal variation has not stopped the catastrophists from claiming vindication. No matter that those who study the Pacific and Atlantic decadal scale oscillations predicted a cold and snowy winter for Europe and North America, the recent blizzards are being offered up as “proof” that Earth's climate is changing for the worse. And what of the reports of widespread natural disaster from Rio, Brisbane and elsewhere? Even more global warming, of course. When it comes to wicked weather, the climate change cabal's misinformation machine is running at full tilt.