As discussed - from this morning's copy of The
FW: Sorry to ruin
the fun, but an ice age cometh
See Report below.
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Sorry to ruin the fun, but an ice age comethhttp://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,23583376-7583,00.html
Phil Chapman | April 23, 2008 THE scariest
photo I have seen on the internet is www.spaceweather.com, where you will find a real-time image
of the sun from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, located in deep space
at the equilibrium point between solar and terrestrial gravity.
What is scary about the picture is that there is only one tiny
Disconcerting as it may be to true believers in global
warming, the average temperature on Earth has remained steady or slowly
declined during the past decade, despite the continued increase in the
atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, and now the global temperature is
All four agencies that track Earth's
temperature (the Hadley Climate Research Unit in Britain, the NASA Goddard
Institute for Space Studies in New York, the Christy group at the University
of Alabama, and Remote Sensing Systems Inc in California) report that it
cooled by about 0.7C in 2007. This is the fastest temperature change in the
instrumental record and it puts us back where we were in 1930. If the
temperature does not soon recover, we will have to conclude that global
warming is over.
There is also plenty of anecdotal evidence that 2007
was exceptionally cold. It snowed in Baghdad for the first time in centuries,
the winter in China was simply terrible and the extent of Antarctic sea ice in
the austral winter was the greatest on record since James Cook discovered the
place in 1770.
It is generally not possible to draw conclusions about
climatic trends from events in a single year, so I would normally dismiss this
cold snap as transient, pending what happens in the next few years.
This is where SOHO comes in. The sunspot number follows a cycle of
somewhat variable length, averaging 11 years. The most recent minimum was in
March last year. The new cycle, No.24, was supposed to start soon after that,
with a gradual build-up in sunspot numbers.
It didn't happen. The
first sunspot appeared in January this year and lasted only two days. A tiny
spot appeared last Monday but vanished within 24 hours. Another little spot
appeared this Monday. Pray that there will be many more, and soon.
reason this matters is that there is a close correlation between variations in
the sunspot cycle and Earth's climate. The previous time a cycle was delayed
like this was in the Dalton Minimum, an especially cold period that lasted
several decades from 1790.
Northern winters became ferocious: in
particular, the rout of Napoleon's Grand Army during the retreat from Moscow
in 1812 was at least partly due to the lack of sunspots.
rapid temperature decline in 2007 coincided with the failure of cycle No.24 to
begin on schedule is not proof of a causal connection but it is cause for
It is time to put aside the global warming dogma, at least to
begin contingency planning about what to do if we are moving into another
little ice age, similar to the one that lasted from 1100 to 1850.
There is no doubt that the next little ice age would be much worse
than the previous one and much more harmful than anything warming may do.
There are many more people now and we have become dependent on a few temperate
agricultural areas, especially in the US and Canada. Global warming would
increase agricultural output, but global cooling will decrease it.
Millions will starve if we do nothing to prepare for it (such as
planning changes in agriculture to compensate), and millions more will die
from cold-related diseases.
There is also another possibility, remote
but much more serious. The Greenland and Antarctic ice cores and other
evidence show that for the past several million years, severe glaciation has
almost always afflicted our planet.
The bleak truth is that, under
normal conditions, most of North America and Europe are buried under about
1.5km of ice. This bitterly frigid climate is interrupted occasionally by
brief warm interglacials, typically lasting less than 10,000 years.
The interglacial we have enjoyed throughout recorded human history,
called the Holocene, began 11,000 years ago, so the ice is overdue. We also
know that glaciation can occur quickly: the required decline in global
temperature is about 12C and it can happen in 20 years.
descent into an ice age is inevitable but may not happen for another 1000
years. On the other hand, it must be noted that the cooling in 2007 was even
faster than in typical glacial transitions. If it continued for 20 years, the
temperature would be 14C cooler in 2027.
By then, most of the advanced
nations would have ceased to exist, vanishing under the ice, and the rest of
the world would be faced with a catastrophe beyond imagining.
Australia may escape total annihilation but would surely be overrun by
millions of refugees. Once the glaciation starts, it will last 1000 centuries,
an incomprehensible stretch of time.
If the ice age is coming, there
is a small chance that we could prevent or at least delay the transition, if
we are prepared to take action soon enough and on a large enough scale.
For example: We could gather all the bulldozers in the world and use
them to dirty the snow in Canada and Siberia in the hope of reducing the
reflectance so as to absorb more warmth from the sun.
We also may be
able to release enormous floods of methane (a potent greenhouse gas) from the
hydrates under the Arctic permafrost and on the continental shelves, perhaps
using nuclear weapons to destabilise the deposits.
We cannot really
know, but my guess is that the odds are at least 50-50 that we will see
significant cooling rather than warming in coming decades.
probability that we are witnessing the onset of a real ice age is much less,
perhaps one in 500, but not totally negligible.
All those urging
action to curb global warming need to take off the blinkers and give some
thought to what we should do if we are facing global cooling instead.
It will be difficult for people to face the truth when their
reputations, careers, government grants or hopes for social change depend on
global warming, but the fate of civilisation may be at stake.
famous words of Oliver Cromwell, "I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ,
think it possible you may be mistaken." Phil Chapman is a
geophysicist and astronautical engineer who lives in San Francisco. He was the
first Australian to become a NASA astronaut.