Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Global Cooling? It has happened before

The Earth has obviously gone through countless, remarkable periods of both warming and cooling. What should give us pause for thought is these occurred long before man began burning lots of fossil fuels and adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. We're not even really sure warming is even occuring and there are obviously factors at work other than man and our pathetically minor input of carbon dioxide.

From a friend, here is a summary from a presentation on the television History Channel about the affects of what is now known as "The Little Ice Age".

A gem off the History Channel this morning.

Consequences of the
Little Ice Age.
It began in the 1300s, wiped out the Vikings in Greenland,
defeated the Spanish Armada, keeping England English, spread potatoes across
Europe, won our Independence, defeated Napoleon, started our westward migration, and created Frankenstein.
It was believed triggered by an increased incidence of Krakatoa-scale volcanic eruptions: 5 per century as compared to the usual 1 per century. And on top of
this: 5.April 1815 came the explosion of Mt Tambora
on Sumbawa, Indonesia. 36 cubic miles of debris were sent up to 15 miles
into the stratosphere. This is 100x the ash of St Helens.
A dusty fog hung all summer over N. Europe. It snowed. In Hungary the snow was brown. Agricultural resources already devastated by Napolean's march into Russia were ruined by the cold. People starved.
As the "year without summer" began in 1816, Percy Shelley, his 19yr old wife Mary, and their friend Lord Byron, went on vacation to Lake Geneva. But it was too cold and grim to go outside. So the three decided to amuse themselves indoors w/ a
contest to see who could write the scariest story.
Mary won.

The potato was brought to Europe from the new world by early Spanish
explorers. But it was culturally out of whack with traditional staples and
was quickly opposed by the clergy who called potatoes the "devil's crop". People starved when crops failed but potatoes were still avoided.
Then came the 30 Years War. A traditional strategy of warfare in
those days was the burning of crops. This destroyed surface crops like the
grains. But potatoes live underground out of touch of burning, and
freezing. Hence, thanks to the 30 Years War, potatoes
finally became accepted as a staple in Europe.

One consequence of global warming is global cooling, considered the bigger threat to survival since it wipes out food supply. The warming causes the cooling owing to glacial snow melt changing ocean salinity which interrupts temperature conveyor currents that currently keep the northern latitudes warm.
Pentagon commissioned a study of the coming ice age scenario. This is raising concern about threats to world order. It is based upon an actual catastrophic temperature change of 802 yrs ago that created anarchy worldwide and changed history. Temp dropped 9 degrees in one year. Rivers froze, crops failed, people starved, nations were drained of resources. Breakdown of societies resulted.
Skirmishes, civil wars, and invasions broke out over resources and water.
This time around it will be worse.
Pentagon is interested to determine how the destabilization will play out and what role the U.S. will have in maintaining world order during the chaos. Likely the U.S. will be soley responsible and plans need be on the shelf.
China a volatile flashpoint. By the scenario, civil war erupts. Chinese Army threatens to invade Russia for it's gas. There will be virtual full scale civil invasion of the U.S. from Latin America. U.S. Navy heads for Gulf to protect Saudi oil resources.

It is not yet clear whether we are going into hyperwarming or hyper cooling. Arguments still out. Behooves to be more cautious w/ possible human influences on global environment


Peter said...

This was a very interesting commentary about climate, the environment and history. I'll have to find more about it on the history channel.

My computer had problems so I bought a new one, faster and more power than ever. I guess this is just something that has to be done every five years or so. It is really remarkable how well it works.

I'm just finishing a book title "In Suspect Terrain" by John McPhee. He is a non-geologist trying to explain geology to lay-people. He does a very good job with a challenging subject by immersing himself in it with the help of some prominent geologists.

Most relevant to the current hot subject of "global warming", was his story of how the Swiss geologist, who was formally a paleontologist, was the first to recognize, prove and spread the idea that glaciers advanced and retreated, many times, and moved mountains of debris and shaped the Earth's surface. We geologists (I think) take these things for granted, but what I find interesting is the resistance he encountered when proposing his theories, from other scientists, and especially the clergy, or the religious leaders. I'm almost surprised they didn't burn him at the stake.

So now we have "experts" running around crying that the sky is falling because of global warming and human-caused air pollution. We don't know the causes or consequences of global warming, but we have people proposing all kinds of draconian solutions that may surely cause more problems than they solve. Kudos to the History Channel for shedding some light on the subject.
Thanks for the referral.

Peter said...

Hi, Pete,

Considering Kurzweil's Law of Accelerating Returns (read his The Singularity is Near), one is obliged to renew their computer about every 3 or 4 years as the tech advances are so increasingly enormous over time that an older computer is hard put to handle all the code the newer machines crunch up.

I love McPhee. I have his Annals of a Former World, which includes all of his geological monographs across the width of America, including of especial interest to me, Basin and Range, and Assembling California. The latter ---- and I have read parts of out loud. This guy has as good a grasp of the sense of geology as any professional geologist I've known. He puts the fun back in geology.

Re global warming, any time you chase a proposition with $20 billions in grants to prove something, small wonder that all the research goes into looking only for what might prove it, and not what might disprove it. Consider for instance the annual net accummulation of 43 billion tonnes of snow on the Antarctic continent. Heard much about that in the media? Best I've heard is that some consider it "puzzling".
If you want an excellent action read on this subject, try Creighton's novel about it: State of Fear.