Monday, 11 February 2013

Changing Climate, Changing History, Changing Myths

If you read the publications of the neo-evironmentalists on the subject of climate change, you get the impression that there is only one cause for it: carbon dioxide content in the earth's atmosphere. If you examine the issue, the cause for climate change is far more complex than just carbon dioxide, which is just one of many of the atmospheric greenhouse gases. In fact, you find that greenhouse gases are a rather minor factor when examining the overall issue.
The Ice Age and the Astronomical Factors Affecting Climate

Depending upon the reader's disposition, the following may be found depressing or humbling; regardless, it is the truth.

The earth goes through long-term regular cycles: orbit eccentricities (every 95,000 to 100,000 years); axial tilt from 22.1° to 24.5° every 41,000 years; and axial wobble every 26,000 years. Each one of these factors and/or combinations depending upon where these cycles intersect, affect earth's climate via its exposure to solar radiation. Considering the long periods of glaciation during this 2.5 million year Ice Age we are now living in, it would appear such long-range cycles could explain as to why there are periods of glaciation lasting 100,000 year or more. As for there being a scientific working theory using these parameters to predict the next cycle of glaciation, it does not yet exist. Science is far from being perfect, but at least it has given us an explanation via inference.

Within this same category of astronomical factors, we should also include earth's magnetic field which varies in strength over time, and occasionally there occurs a magnetic reversal of the poles. Science has not yet been able to even identify the lengths of these cycles yet, providing there is a regularity in them. However, a strong magnetic field repels solar radiation, and thus, this factor would obviously affect climate.

Of course, even another factor are the cycles that our Sun goes through giving off solar radiation. We know of some of the smaller cycles, e.g., the 11 and 22 year cycles identified by sun spots or their absence, but we do not know well the larger cycles. Obviously the very source all solar radiation impacts the climate of the earth.

What we do know through studying our geological history is that when periods of glaciation come, they come swiftly relative to the geological time-frame, that is, within decades as compared to millenniums. Also, when those rare Interglacial periods come, like the one we are living in now, they too come very quickly. This current Interglacial period we are now living within, has been going on for about 12,000 years but arose suddenly, ending a 100,000 year period of glaciation.

Those Factors Affecting Climate within an Interglacial Period

There are constant cooling and warming periods within an Interglacial period, called stadials and interstadials, respectively. These do not come suddenly but rather gradually. We are now within an interstadial (warming period), after coming out of a stadial (cooling period). This warming trend started around AD 1850. We really do not know why we are now warming, just like we do not know why there were all those other warming periods previous to this one in our Interglacial period. We also do not know why there were periods of cooling either. We can only produce theories. Even with all my scouring through the Internet resources, I have yet to come across one viable theory. Of course, the neo-environmentalists have their theory insisting that we are now warming because of our putting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere through our Industrial Age activities. Most of these neo-environmentalists avoid the subject of warming and cooling periods existing within this Interglacial period. Unfortunately, given that they can not address all the previous warming periods since mankind was not involved in any industrial activities then, their theory is hardly a viable one.

There are some geo-physical factors that we can identify as possibly having an impact upon earth's climate within an Interglacial period: ocean currents changing, volcanic eruptions, the amount of solar radiation earth receives, shifts in tectonic plates as evidenced by earthquakes, etc. Who knows, but perhaps the astronomical factors listed previously are still having a significant impact - after all, why would they stop having any impact?

The optimum level reached within our current Interglacial period was about 8,000 years ago. Since then, the earth has been gradually cooling. That is, the warming periods are not as warm as they were, and the cooling periods are gradually getting cooler and cooler.


Oh, how foolish of me. I forgot to mention greenhouse gases as being a factor in affecting climate within an Interglacial period. Let us examine greenhouse gases next.

Greenhouse Gases

A greenhouse gas is a gas in the earth's atmosphere that absorbs and emits radiation. In other words, it reflects heat back to the earth causing a warming effect. Without greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the earth would be devoid of heat and would be a virtual snowball. The primary greenhouse gases are water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and ozone. But the principal one with the most effect is water vapour - and this is one that few neo-environmentals mention. All of these gases are natural. They are not pollution.

The main concern behind the global warming hysteria has been the impact of man through the Industrial Revolution, starting circa AD 1750, in producing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, and throwing this into the air. Since carbon dioxide can remain in the atmosphere for great lengths of time, the scenario proposed is that man producing this atmospheric carbon component is warming up the earth. The end result will be devastation as the earth warms and the ice sheets in the Antarctic and Greenland melt, causing the sea level to rise and thus flooding and destroying countless coastal towns and cities, not to mention extinguishing polar bears and penguins.

From my perspective, the earth is going into one of its warming period as it has for the last 12,000 years, and has done so many times. So global warming is not the issue, for this is a truth. What my contention entails is that some quarters have caused almost an hysteria (a chicken little syndrome) by insisting that mankind is mainly behind this warming through the pollution he has produced through the industrial process. I believe that IF man is contributing to this global warming, then it is ever so slight, and thus, it is not worth the hysteria and is no cause for concern at all. In actual fact, nothing is a cause for concern and not even the inevitable glaciation period that is coming because there is nothing we can do about it, and so, why be concerned?

Man's annual industrial contribution to the carbon content of the atmosphere is in the order of 3.22% and this statistic is from the neo-environmentalists themselves. Carbon dioxide is just one of the several greenhouse gases, and water vapour is the principal one that composes 90% of the greenhouse gases. Such a small contribution to just one of the greenhouse gases, and in consideration that the greenhouse gas factor is just one of many factors affecting climate, man's contribution to global warming is rather negligible. Man's contribution to global warming is far less than what his own ego would prefer, in other words.

If just one of these neo-environmentalists can come up a reason as to what caused all the other warming periods in this Holocene Interglacial period, they would have my attention. But they can not do so because most refuse even to admit that other warming periods occurred and thus they deny historical facts. What they do instead, is use the "Mini Ice Age" (AD 1350-1850) cooling period as the temperature norm as a baseline and then skewer the statistics upon that basis.

The neo-environmentalists pursue poor science. They do not address the historical data for what it does reveal in that if one is looking for cause and effect from data collected for past periods, carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere rises long AFTER temperature rises. It has yet to scientifically determined the true cause and effect relationship between global temperature and carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere.

The Media is a Two-Edged Sword and Myths Are Far More Powerful

The media is driven by trying to get the reader's attention. Thus, when it can get a headline like, Scientists Say Polar Bears to Be Extinct by 2050, they love it. However, the media can also produce headlines like this and love it just the same, Doomsayers Are Speechless - Polar Bear Populations Increasing Worldwide. No, these are not actual headlines, but the equivalent headlines have been produced by the media over the last few years. The point is, the media can not be trusted as it is used by different lobby groups for propaganda purposes. What I find ironic, is that the exact same graphic directly below has been used by both sides of the issue.

I am surprised that ad companies have not used images like this one above to promote certain products. For instance, think of the impact of an ad campaign with the following caption for the picture above: I gave up my SUV and now drive a Smart Car to save this polar bear. After all, ad campaigns are really just propaganda.

Are polar bears being driven to extinction because of this current warming of the climate? Well, let us say this much: polar bears survived the earlier warming periods of this present Interglacial period, and the majority of these periods were warmer than this present time, and so they will probably survive this one too. If polar bears were able to survive the last glaciation period which lasted 100,000 years, they can pretty much survive anything. Although, the one thing they could not probably survive is if a wealthy segment segment of our society highly valued polar bear skins.

The contention that human industrial activity is the prime cause behind our current warming trend is turning into a myth. Myths are powerful because they are simply accepted as truth by most people without very many looking into the issues. Myths become part of our culture and are passed down from generation to generation. Even within my own life time, one such myth exists, and was created by the media and persists even today after three generations.

I am referring to the Lemming Mass Suicide myth. The term "lemming" in the English language is used to describe a person who is a blind follower, who does what he/she is told. It is based upon the false information that the Lemming, an Arctic rodent, explodes in population periodically and drives itself to rapidly migrate en masse, even to the extent of throwing itself off cliffs into the northern seas and drowning.

This myth, which is an integral part of our North American culture, came about from a Disney wildlife documentary, released in 1958 - White Wilderness. Within this documentary, you can see masses of these Lemmings falling off a cliff into the sea. It was all staged. This documentary was shot in Alberta, Canada. The producers had a couple of dozen Lemmings shipped in from Hudson Bay, and cleverly filmed a combination of scenes showing these Lemmings falling off a high cliff into the water. Of course, all of the Lemmings in this documentary died for they drown easily. They were manipulated by the film crew to fall off the cliff. This is the truth behind the myth of the Lemmings. By they way, this Disney documentary won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, 1958.

I would classify the man-made global warming myth to be on par with the Lemming myth. The bigger the lie, the more likely it will become a powerful myth. Studying history is one solution to countering the man-made global warming myth.


Friday, 8 February 2013

Climate Change and Geological History

Does the term "climate change" make sense? It makes about as much sense as the term "wet water." In other words, "climate change" is redundant. So when "climate change" is used, what does it really mean? It really means global warming caused by human activities. Of course climate changes. It always has and it always will on planet earth. As to how much impact human activity has upon changing the global climate is concerned, is another matter altogether.
Historical Context
As far as geological history is concerned we are currently living in an Ice Age. No, the Ice Age did not end, we are still living in it. The current Ice Age we are living in has been going on for the last 2.5 million years. The presence of the ice sheets on Antarctica and Greenland establish the fact that we are still living in the Ice Age.

We are, however, living within an Interglacial episode within an Ice Age. This current Interglacial episode started around 12,000 year ago. The chart below expresses this concept rather well:

This chart spans 415,000 years, and we are in that little orange peak at the far right. There were just 6 Interglacial episodes in the last 415,000 years, and they are far shorter than the periods of Glaciation which last tens of thousands of years. The last Glaciation episode lasted for 100,000 years. During that time 30% of the earth's land surface was under ice sheets equivalent to the thickness found on Antarctica, which ice sheet is about 2 miles high at its centre.

During this current Ice Age, more than 85% of the 2.5 million years, the earth has been consumed within periods of Glaciation which made it most inhospitable and caused the extinction of many species of animals. The Interglacial episodes have been warming periods conducive to allowing life to thrive.

Are we headed for another period of Glaciation? Looking at this chart, and knowing that we are still within this Ice Age, the answer would be "Yes." That is some bad news if you are closely attached to human civilization, because an episode of Glaciation would more than likely destroy it. Also, there is strong evidence to support the scenario that when glaciation starts, it is not a slow process but relatively quick - over a time-frame of just a few decades for huge glaciers to start forming all over the place and making life very unpleasant.

Our Interglacial Episode

Human civilization started with this current Interglacial episode we are living in. Scientists call this episode the Holocene Epoch, if we want to get technical about it. So even though life has thrived during these last 12,000 years, there have also been warming and cooling periods within it. At the present time, we have been within a warming period since around AD 1850. The chart below expresses this current Interglacial episode.


We are currently living in that little red area to the far right. Please note all the other red areas on this chart over the last 9,000 years. These red areas reflect warming trends within this Interglacial within which we are living. Some of these warm periods were a lot warmer than our current time period. Also note the pattern for the last 4,000 years - each warming or cooling trend lasts for about 500 years, give or take a century. This could perhaps mean that this warming trend we are now in will last another 300 years or so.

But wait! What about all our human industrial pollution that is causing global warming? Isn't it humans who are making the world warmer?

Taking a Step Back

In order to answer the previous questions, observe the two charts above and ask yourself this question: Where was all this industrial pollution warming the climate during all the other warming periods within our Interglacial episode, and where was it in all the other Interglacial episodes for the last 415,000 years? The answer is plainly simple - it wasn't there. The climate does not need human industrial pollution in order to warm. Mother Nature does it fine all by Herself.

However, my answer may not be satisfying to many since the warming trend we are currently in could be influenced by human activities. You are quite correct, if this was your response. After all, the media has been telling us for decades that the climate is warming because of human activity, and even the UN established the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) to explore climate change and global warming, based upon the assumption that mankind is affecting the climate. The United Nations could not be wrong, surely, on such an important issue, could it?

The point this particular blog article wanted to establish was that for the climate to warm, Mother Nature can do this all by Herself. What it also wanted to establish, was that the world was due for a warming trend by AD 1850, since the last cooling period had run its course of about 500 years. We are now in a warming trend, and that is the effect. What we need to establish is the cause, and that is for a future blog article.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

How Studying Family History Drew Me into Exploring Climate Change

For the last couple of years I have been studying my family tree, and researching the events surrounding my family history. I wanted to know more than just names, dates and locations of my ancestors, but I wanted to understand the times they lived through. Since I can trace one specific ancestral line back more than 400 years, I also researched the historical settings when I found out where and when they lived.

What has been most helpful in my studies was when one or more of my ancestors were mentioned in publications - whether books, newspapers or magazine articles. The Internet has proven to be a great research tool in finding more about where these references occur. One of the most valuable gold mines of information was found in a book published in 1874 entitled Forests and Clearings: The History of Stanstead County, Province of Quebec, compiled by B. F. Hubbard.

One group of my ancestors came to Canada from the United States, and they were a part of one of the earliest settlements in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. They were members of the Marlow Settlement, and Hubbard mentions them by name, gives specific locations, times, and the events surrounding their coming to Lower Canada. The relevant years were from 1799 through to 1802. My 4th great-grandfather, Caleb White and his extended family moved from Marlow, New Hampshire to the Standstead Township of Lower Canada. They were farmers and gained land grants that the British were offering to all and any settlers willing to take up stake in the land. Before that time, the Townships was almost a complete wilderness.

The Winter That Never Was

Other than being so thrilled about finding exact references to my ancestors in the book, what was even more interesting was finding the author's commentary about the weather conditions that met my ancestors and their associates when they journeyed to and settled in Stanstead Township. The winters were extremely mild, and mild to such an extent that a wheat crop was planted in March of 1801, and an abundant crop was harvested. Even the author noted that this was unheard of for the Eastern Townships area. I was born 150 years after my ancestors arrived in Lower Canada, and I lived the first 15 years of my life in the Townships and having such warm winters was never in the equation. It was and still is, a very cold place in the winters, with an abundance of cold and snowy weather from December, and usually through to April.

How reliable was this book though? The author, Hubbard, claimed that he received these stories from the descendants of these early settlers. Perhaps there was some exaggeration being passed down. So I searched for evidence to corroborate a period of extremely mild winters in the north-east of the United States from 1799 to 1803. Since my ancestors settled in Lower Canada, in an area that was no more than 10 miles north of the Vermont border, I checked with American sources, thinking I might find some confirmation of such a warm period in that area of the world.

I did find corroboration, and from several different sources. One was from The Family Magazine, 1840-41, which is a New York publication. Under the heading, Meteorological Observations, which covered the years 1789 through to 1831, there were comments about the winters from 1799 through to 1803 being mild, and with the winter of 1801-02 being exceptionally mild. There was another source I found: The Reading Eagle, Sunday, January 27, 1907, a newspaper from Pennsylvania, that mentioned in a column about the exceptionally mild winter of 1801-02. Therefore, it would seem that the extent of the mild winter of 1801-02 covered an area of several hundred miles at least, from Pennsylvania north all the way up to Lower Canada. As to why this period was so mild, I could not find any modern reference to this weather anomaly and what factor(s) would have made it so.

The Summer That Never Was

However, it seems more consistent with human nature to recall the more negative aspects of weather than the positive ones. With this in mind, I did discover that Hubbard, in his Forests and Clearings mentioning the calamitous summer of 1816, and one that my farming ancestors had to live through in the Townships. This event is known as "The Summer That Never Was" by historians. In my reading about this year and its summer, the usual hot months of July and August were cold and snowy. Most crops were destroyed by the frost as nothing could grow. Livestock and humans starved to death in various places, and the suffering extended into the following year. This event was an extensive one, and covered most of the Northern Hemisphere. It is estimated that the global temperature dropped by more than half a degree Celsius, and this is all that it takes to cause such disastrous results.

The cause for this event was primarily the eruption of Mount Tambora in the Dutch East Indies the year before. This volcanic eruption was the largest to have occurred on the earth for 1,300 years previous. The volcanic ash and sulphuric compounds emitted by such an eruption caused a volcanic winter on the other side of the earth within a year. This is quite extraordinary. It has also been speculated by some that earth was going through a period of low solar radiation which exacerbated the effect.

The forces of Mother Nature are incredible when exerted against the climate of the earth, and this caused me to ponder as to what else I could learn about these forces. It also made me wonder about how much impact mankind really has upon our climate. Therefore, I started to explore the history behind Climate Change that seems to be the current politically correct term for Global Warming, that has so many environmentalists occupied these days. But the findings from my research and exploration are for a future blog entry.