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640,000 Years Of Climate Change

A new study of the Asian Monsoon record has shed light on Earth's changing climate over the past six-hundred and forty millennia. Drawn from an exhaustive and painstaking examination of the relative proportions of the oxygen isotopes 16O and 18O in stalagmites, records from Chinese caves characterize changes in both the Asian monsoon and global climate. This record supports the idea that the 100,000-year glacial/interglacial cycle is an average of discrete numbers of precession cycles. Further more, changes in insolation, the amount of energy received from the Sun, triggers deglaciations and shorter term millennial events. No evidence supporting the upstart theory that CO2 controls climate change is reported.

The Case of the Alternating Ice Sheets

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.

The Ocean Plays A Deeper Game

Around 19,000 years ago, oceanic conditions underwent dramatic changes that coincided with a shift in global climate, marking the onset of the Holocene warming. In the North Atlantic, major changes in the Meridional Overturning Circulation (MOC), which carries warm and highly saline surface water north to cooler regions, played a substantial role in regulating climate and levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Scientists are now convinced that the ocean absorbed, stored, and released vast quantities of carbon in the past, playing a major role in the end of the last Pleistocene Ice Age glacial period. Understanding the ocean's role in the past is important to understanding how it may influence climate in the future. A new report in Science shows that the MOC experienced a series of abrupt changes that lasted from decades to centuries, and may have stored and released more CO2 than previously thought.

Mammoth Confusion

According to a recent paper, human actions may have caused Earth's climate to warm much earlier than previously expected. In an article to be published in Geophysical Research Letters, and widely reported in the media, around 15,000 years ago, early hunters were a major factor in driving mammoths to extinction. Supposedly, this die-off had the side effect of heating up the planet. This is an interesting conjecture, since a letter just published in Nature Geocience reaches the opposite conclusion regarding climate and the mammoths' decline. This mammoth confusion illustrates the uncertain and even contradictory evidence that abounds in climate science.

Ice Age Terminations: Orbital Cycles, Ocean Circulation and Shifting Monsoons

A new study has confirmed the astronomical theory of the ice ages, but with a new twist: The shutoff of the meridional ocean circulation, or MOC, and an associated southward shift of tropical monsoon rain belts seems to play an integral role in the melting of glacial period ice sheets. These changes cause warming of the Southern Hemisphere and a rise in atmospheric CO2 levels, which in turn provides a positive feedback loop that helps drive glacial termination. This is why, every 100,000 years or so, the great Northern Hemisphere ice sheets collapse and glacial conditions give way to a warm interglacial period, such as the Holocene warming humanity is currently enjoying. This, however, does not support recent claims that global warming is causing the Southeast Asian monsoon to fail.

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