The NYT has yet another article about Ice Ages which stir up a lot of heat and heavy breathing. Namely, a group of scientists dared to suggest our present happy interglacial is due to end pretty soon and the only thing keeping this impending, cold, dark ice age at bay is human CO2 production. Of course, the whole problem with humanity is, whatever is the status quo today is supposed to be set on this level forever but this isn’t how our planet operates. The planet’s climate has been greatly destabilized for some still-unknown reason starting just 2.5 million years ago.
The debate about global warming is really a debate about keeping this planet going exactly as it pleases us today, not natural cycles. Humans evolved very rapidly and quite dramatically beginning 2.5 million years ago as the planet definitely cooled off. We had already evolved to be virtually naked because, as I keep saying, we are basically apes who evolved to fit into a hot, sunny, pleasant climate that features, in particular, warm nights. Very warm nights!
The issue of why we became naked is just as unresolved as the issue of why the earth suddenly ended up in a cycle of very long ice ages punctuated by unexplained and above all, very, very sudden warming cycles. There is no wy we would have evolved our naked skin under the hammer of repeated ice ages unless there was some advantage to being naked.
This ice age cycle system led to a lot of sudden evolutionary changes. For example, whales began as land animals who then took to the water to hunt for fish. There are some anthropologists who believe humans also were fish and sea shell eaters who swam during the end of the warm era. Whales evolved rapidly during the ice ages just as we did. One thing is certain: the present condition of the planet is very unusual and has triggered vast genetic changes which we assume are eternal and set in stone whereas these genetic upsets are highly fluid due to the see-saw cold/hot cycles we have experienced in recent geological planetary history.
The research, led by Chronis Tzedakis of University College, London, examined similarities between the current warm interval between ice ages and a particular point, around 780,000 years ago, during a past warm period known as Marine Isotope Stage 19. Using a variety of methods, the authors conclude that the onset of a new ice age would likely begin about 1,500 years from now, if the concentration of carbon dioxide was back below the levels produced since the Industrial Revolution.
There are a number of people who worry about the impending next ice age. Due to us not understanding exactly what triggers these events, all sorts of suppositions are thrown about but frankly, no one still knows for certain what is going on. I don’t deny that rising CO2 has warmed the planet. Anti-global warming people are wrong when they try to evade the role of CO2 in warming. But what I suggest over and over again is, we are on borrowed time here. The looming ice age to be is right over the horizon, lurking in the dark future.
I have suspected most of my life that the Yellowstone/rift system in North America has been cycling merrily along with a major change in our local star, the sun’s output of the sort of solar energy we need to stay warm. The chances of humans keeping our present weather pattern for all eternity is a fool’s errand. For we evolved due to a very unstable system and this instability continues and all efforts to keep it from happening are going to be futile.
From the NYT comes some rather bizarre rebuttals of the suggestion that we face a massive ice sheet event that would be extremely unpleasant:
Richard Alley, a longtime analyst of ice and climate at Pennsylvania State University: Cochelin et al used a model of intermediate complexity to show that the orbital variations over the next 100,000 years are weak enough that even a little human CO2 remaining in the atmosphere is enough to keep the earth out of an ice age (“Simulation of long-term future climate changes with the green McGill paleoclimate model: The next glacial inception”).
So, overall, the idea that our CO2 is having a large impact on the climate that will last a long time, and exceed any natural trend to start a new ice age, is rather well established in the scientific literature (also see the references 2-3 and 5-7 in the new paper).
Sigh. This is why it is so depressing, trying to explain how the sun operates. Yes, there have been orbital variations that may amplify ice age triggers. But this is not the trigger. Ice ages happen because of a CONFLUENCE of events such as Yellowstone erupting violently and this accidentally coinciding with a shift in solar output and reduction of sun spot activity and the earth tilted in the wrong direction for the northern hemisphere to heat up.
Yellowstone is smack dab in the middle of the northern hemispherical moderate climate zone. Each eruption covered vast areas of North America with volcanic dust, killing plants. We still don’t know what effect this has on the climate but I can assure people, it is HUGE. And I have toured major volcanic eruption zones in the past and the most interesting thing is, the ground is blazingly white, reflecting the sun back to space!
So what we have is a puzzle of many pieces. No one thing triggered this ice age cycle but several things certainly did. And all these things are still happening! Yellowstone isn’t dead, it is a living mega-volcano that heaves and breathes. There is a similar, smaller one dead center in Germany which is also where ice sheets happened in the past. And then there is the sudden appearance of Iceland! Along the same climate belt which is where the transmission of warm air moves across the Atlantic ocean during warm cycles.
Here is another scientist trying to shoot down the idea, we are headed towards yet another ice age:
James Hansen, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies:
What would have been (absent humans) is only of academic interest. The two principal mechanisms by which the orbital effects on the regional/seasonal distribution of insolation instigate climate change are melting/growth of ice sheets (thus albedo change –> temperature change) and the slow feedback effect of GHGs responding to temperature change, thus increasing the greenhouse effect. But the huge human-made GHG changes cause ice to be melting all over the planet. So the growth of Northern Hemisphere ice sheets to start the next ice age can’t happen — on the contrary, as you can see, the tundra, Greenland and sea ice are melting and shrinking in area. So the increasing albedo mechanism needed to move the planet into the next ice age can’t happen — unless humans go extinct. Of course I know this is already well known by you.
That is just plain stupid! Of course, under PRESENT CONDITIONS, an ice age just can’t happen. But we know that when Yellowstone blows up, it covers 80% of the US from the Rockies to the East Coast, with a white, fine dust that kills the trees and plants and above all, reflects the sun’s light back into space. NO ice age began slowly and NO ice age ended slowly. Each event was a violent swing of a peculiar pendulum.
The ‘slow feedback effect’ of ANYTHING is thrown to the wolves if there is a major Yellowstone event. No ifs, ands or buts. And there is no ‘slow feedback effect’ if the sun suddenly reduces solar activity for 100,000 years, either! It is sudden and the suddenness of all this is what is so amazing and troubling. This basic instability of the climate predated human interventions of any sort. We were mere monkeys that didn’t hunt nor light fires when suddenly, we were plunged off the pleasant cliff where we lived so artlessly and happily and found ourselves in a living hell that hammered us mercilessly for two+ million years!
This concept is hard to accept. We like the status quo of today. We don’t want any changes because everything was set up to work under today’s systems. We foolishly built major cities right on the edge of the ocean, assuming incorrectly that the ocean’s edge would be the same forever, no matter what. Despite seeing the ocean suddenly flooding areas like Japan and Indonesia, we still build on the ocean with this insane presumption.
The ocean’s edge is extremely variable! But we don’t want variables, we want things pinned in place. We want to have our constructions remain intact and unmolested but Mother Nature laughs at us for this presumption. Never, ever were landmasses stationary. Nor the ocean at some ideal depth. The entire reason why we have evolution is due to deaths caused by environmental changes and this process continues relentlessly onwards.
And as always, the yelling about CO2 puzzles me when I see virtually no sacrifices being made to stop this. Who is doing what, anyways? All the people at the top want people at the bottom to change so that we don’t have this CO2 problem while they want to still fly and drive all over kingdom come, live in climate-controlled houses that ignore reality (solar orientation, etc.) and have a high, good time. I recently had a fine, ernest young lady over here who was oh-so-careful about global warming and her impact on nature…talking merrily about how she was flying off to India, of all places, to hang out!
HA! That, in a nutshell, shows us exactly the problem with humans. We love to fret, we love to feel as if we are morally upright but we certainly do love to have fun and do whatever, to hell with what we pretend we believe. We can’t stop ‘global warming’ very easily if the very same people who worry the most about it are behaving as if it doesn’t exist whenever it suits them.
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