Monday, January 11, 2010

Global warming? . . . Or cooling?

Interesting: Shortly after hearing of the supposed "failure" of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, I happened to come across an article in the Economist's special The World in 2010 called "Where have all the sunspots gone?"

"In the past, sunspots have disappeared for decades," writes the author.
Between 1645 and 1715, they were rare. There were several years in which none at all was sighted and others in which fewer than ten were spotted. Giovanni Cassini, an Italian astronomer, described a sunspot that appeared in 1671 as the first he had seen for many years. John Flamsteed, the first Astronomer Royal, observed one in 1684, after a gap of ten years. This 70-year period of low solar activity has since been dubbed the Maunder Minimum (after an astronomer called Edward Maunder, a sunspot specialist).
And so? . . .

Well, it appears we may be entering into a new "Maunder Minimum."
Four centuries after sunspots were first seen—by Galileo—they have disappeared almost entirely. In 2009 weeks and sometimes months went by without a single sunspot being discerned. In 2010 they will return, or so say most solar scientists. Others wonder whether the sun may be going through an extended period of inactivity. . . .

Normally the number of sunspots peaks every 11 years, coinciding with the times when the sun’s magnetic field is at its strongest. As the field wanes, the number of sunspots falls to a trough or minimum, at which point the sun’s magnetic field reverses direction and starts to regain its strength. As it does so, sunspots begin to appear close to the poles of the sun. When the magnetic field is at its strongest, and sunspots at their most plentiful, they cluster close to the equator.

Back in 2008 solar scientists saw a high-latitude, reversed-polarity sunspot, suggesting the start of a new solar cycle. Since then, however, there has been little activity. . . .

Scientists from America’s space agency, NASA, reckon that the next peak will come in March or April 2013. However, their colleagues at the National Solar Observatory in Tucson, Arizona, have found that the magnetism of sunspots (the strength of the knot that they form) has been declining over the past couple of decades. If this carries on, solar magnetic fields will become too weak to form sunspots, which will vanish completely in 2015.
So are we headed for a new "Maunder Minimum"? We may find out in 2010.
"Reliable predictions of sunspot numbers are impossible to make until the solar cycle is well established, usually three years after the minimum"--i.e., this year, 2010.

But so what? And why did I title this post with words about global warming or cooling?

Well . . .

"The Maunder Minimum coincided with a period of exceptionally cold winters in Europe and North America and, perhaps, elsewhere," writes the author.

"Oh, yes!" I thought when I read that sentence. "Wasn't that called the Little Ice Age?" (Yes, it was.)

Frankly, I have been a skeptic not so much about global warming, per se, but about the supposed link between human action and global warming. Considering the temperature increases that occurred long before the build-up in atmospheric carbon dioxide; and considering the much higher temperatures the earth seems to have experienced in millennia past: I just don't find the "arguments" for human causation particularly compelling.

So then comes this article about sunspots.

"What happens if global warming meets solar cooling?" asks the author. "Expect a hot debate."

Yes. I can imagine.

But I just hope the cooling, if it is to come, comes quickly and decisively so that our governments will not have made it impossible for those of us who will need fuel just to stay warm and survive to get the fuel we need.


While we're on the subject, let me encourage you to read physicist Howard Hayden's "one-letter proof" that the science is not settled on the issue of CO2 and climate change.

Nice job, Professor Hayden (and Stephan Kinsella, who quoted him).


Oh. And then yesterday I happened upon this article, from yesterday's Daily Mail (UK), in which "some of the world’s most eminent climate scientists" claim that "a global trend towards cooler weather . . . is likely to last for 20 or 30 years."

Interesting: These scientists don't mention sunspots. They refer to certain "oceanic cycles, . . . known as the Pacific and Atlantic ‘multi-decadal oscillations’ (MDOs)."
Prof Anastasios Tsonis, head of the University of Wisconsin Atmospheric Sciences Group, has recently shown that these MDOs move together in a synchronised way across the globe, abruptly flipping the world’s climate from a ‘warm mode’ to a ‘cold mode’ and back again in 20 to 30-year cycles.

‘They amount to massive rearrangements in the dominant patterns of the weather,’ he said yesterday, ‘and their shifts explain all the major changes in world temperatures during the 20th and 21st Centuries.

'We have such a change now and can therefore expect 20 or 30 years of cooler temperatures.’

Prof Tsonis said that the period from 1915 to 1940 saw a strong warm mode, reflected in rising temperatures.

But from 1940 until the late Seventies, the last MDO cold-mode era, the world cooled, despite the fact that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere continued to rise.

Many of the consequences of the recent warm mode were also observed 90 years ago.

For example, in 1922, the Washington Post reported that Greenland’s glaciers were fast disappearing, while Arctic seals were ‘finding the water too hot’.

It interviewed a Captain Martin Ingebrigsten, who had been sailing the eastern Arctic for 54 years: ‘He says that he first noted warmer conditions in 1918, and since that time it has gotten steadily warmer.

'Where formerly great masses of ice were found, there are now moraines, accumulations of earth and stones. At many points where glaciers formerly extended into the sea they have entirely disappeared.’

As a result, the shoals of fish that used to live in these waters had vanished, while the sea ice beyond the north coast of Spitsbergen in the Arctic Ocean had melted.

Warm Gulf Stream water was still detectable within a few hundred miles of the Pole.
In contrast, Prof Tsonis said, last week 56 per cent of the surface of the United States was covered by snow.

‘That hasn’t happened for several decades,’ he pointed out. ‘It just isn’t true to say this is a blip. We can expect colder winters for quite a while.’
Of course, the "orthodox" global warming advocates claim all of this is preposterous.
In March 2000, Dr David Viner, then a member of the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit, the body now being investigated over the notorious ‘Warmergate’ leaked emails, said that within a few years snowfall would become ‘a very rare and exciting event’ in Britain, and that ‘children just aren’t going to know what snow is’.

Now the head of a British Council programme with an annual £10 million budget that raises awareness of global warming among young people abroad, Dr Viner last week said he still stood by that prediction: ‘We’ve had three weeks of relatively cold weather, and that doesn’t change anything.

'This winter is just a little cooler than average, and I still think that snow will become an increasingly rare event.’
Will the die-hard believers allow us to wait two or three years to see?

Somehow, I think not. They will attempt, with all their might, to push the rest of us into their orthodoxy.

And I? I would prefer to advocate for a little room to let global warming "heretics" have their say without persecution.

[NOTE: If you are reading this article on Facebook, it originally appeared on my personal blog.]
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