An Inconvenient Fact

Facts Don’t Matter To Al Gore et. al.

The other day – shortly after Algore gave his global warming speech in New York City on the coldest day ever – an article by Geoffrey Lean appeared claiming that shortly Britain would be plunged into a new ice age and become unlivable – because of global warming. In the name of fairness the same people who are today decrying global warming were – in the 60’s decrying global cooling.

Which theory is right? I suppose it depends on which theory is most fashionable and usually which idea generates the most money. The Bucks and Euros are certainly pouring into the warming theory at present.

However, there are some inconvenient facts which deserve mention.

The author of the piece correctly sites that 12,700 years ago (10,700 BC) the Gulf Stream abruptly turned off, plunging Britain (and the rest of Europe into a very cold spell. This period is called the Younger Dryas by geologists. The author neglects to mention two important points:

  1. According to traditional evolutionary and anthropological theories, humans were still ‘living in caves’ in Europe. Somehow, in the course of warming themselves they managed to emit so much pollution that they stopped the Gulf Stream, plunging Britain and Europe into -10C winter temperatures.
  2. Since point one above is clearly preposterous, what did stop the Gulf Stream? Now as a kid you might contemplate damming your local creek, but never would you imagine damming the Mississippi River. The Gulf Stream is orders of magnitude large, however. But something stopped it abruptly, like a dam would.

It just so happens at about this time 10,700 BC North America and Canada sported an ice cap – not a glacier. A glacier, no matter how big, is just a blip compared to an ice cap. This particular ice cap’s southern edge stretched from Alaska down to Washington State, across to Wisconsin, and then northward to Newfoundland, Canada. The northern boundaries covered all of Canada and into the Arctic Ocean.

The ice caps worldwide had been melting in drips and spurts for the previous 6,000 years. At this particular time a portion of the ice cap around Newfoundland-Labrador had probably become undermined by friction-generated melt water and was unstable. It began to move, gathering speed as it slid down the enormous ice cap. It was a long way down, perhaps four kilometers vertically and many more horizontally. When the one and a half kilometer thick block, encompassing 750,000 square kilometers (one third the size of Canada) struck the Atlantic Ocean, it was moving at nearly 600 miles per hour.

To say it made a very loud and a very big splash would be an understatement. Probably one would have to have been there to truly appreciate it. That big an object striking the ocean’s surface at such a huge speed would have been driven straight to the ocean’s bottom, generating a standing wave many kilometers high – probably sweeping over Britain and Europe to the Ural mountains. Naturally, the spot the ice cap portion plunged into was directly in the path of the Gulf Stream – instant dam – and thus, the Younger Dryas began.

It would seem to make sense to say that the next 2,700 years were initially much cooler. Eventually the weather turned warmer as the ice dam eventually disappearing altogether – melted by the warm Gulf Stream. This gave rise to the geological period we are in today – the Holocene – beginning around 8,000 BC (10,000 years ago).

Now unless I missed something, there is no ice cap today to slide into the ocean and block the Gulf Stream. I could be wrong. I’ve been living in this cave in isolation for a long time. Things could have changed out there in the real world. However, on the whole I must say the above mentioned article sounds more like a fund-raiser than any attempt to predict future climates.

But which argument is right? Is the Earth’s climate warming or cooling? There are three major cooling periods recorded in the geological record:

  1. The Precambrian (750-550 million years ago);
  2. The Carboniferous-Permian (320-270 million years ago) and;
  3. The Late Tertiary-Quaternary (2.5 million years ago – 10,000 years ago).

These periods of ice-age events lasted several million years each. Each event goes through stages lasting 20,000 to 100,000 thousand years. During the last event, there have been some 50 stages of global cooling. Of course the cooling stages are relieved by warming ones, like today.

So what is likely to happen in the near-term? Our climate will probably get warmer. And in the long term? It will likely get cooler. On the other hand…

Were does heat come from anyway? No, its not from your furnace. A small portion of the heat which influences climate comes from the Earth’s core. This rising heat influences ocean temperatures and currents. Another mechanism created by the rising heat either pushes the Earth’s surface apart or pulls in down, depending on were one looks. Still another mechanism pushing heat into the atmosphere are volcanic eruptions. In turn, these mechanisms have an effect on air temperatures, causing climatic effects.

However, most of the heat comes from the Sun. Does the Sun put out more heat? Then our climate will likely warm. Does the Sun put out less heat? Then the climate may cool.

What about man’s effects? This is the big bugaboo today. Consider that just one middling volcanic eruption puts more ‘pollution’ into the atmosphere than all of man’s since the so-called ‘Industrial Revolution’ began in the late 1700s. most people will immediately think of Mount Saint Helen’s eruption in the 80s as an example. However, geologically speaking, that eruption was tiny.

Did humankind’s activities cause Saint Helen to erupt? Of course not, and no one would make that ridiculous claim. Below are the major volcanic events. All others are relatively insignificant.

  • Appalachian Mountains, US: 500,000,000-250,000,000 B.C.
  • Siberian Traps, Russia: 250,000,000 B.C. (lava flow), Permian-Triassic extinction.
  • Central Atlantic Magmatic Province: 200,000,000 B.C. – 2.7 million square miles of magma (lava flow).
  • Amazon Basin, Brazil: 965,000 square miles of magma (lava flow).
  • Deccan Traps, India: 65,000,000 B.C. – 2,000 cu. km of magma (lava flow).
  • The Roza Basaltic Flow, Columbia River Basin, US: 14,000,000 B.C .- 700 cu. km of magma 6,000 million tons of aerosols, (Homo sapiens, sapiens (us) arise – 148,000 B.C.).
  • Yellowstone (Super-Volcano), US:
    • Huckleberry Ridge: 2,000,000 B.C. – 2,500 cu. km ash;
    • Island Park: 1,300,000 B.C. – (smallest eruption) and;
    • Lava Creek: 600,000 B.C. – 1,000 cu. km of ash.
  • El Hierro, The Canary Islands: 120,000 B.C. – volcanic slide causes land-wave tsunami 40-50 meters high, smashes into Bahama Islands, leaving 2,000 ton boulders behind.
  • Mount Toba (Super-Volcano), Sumatra, Indonesia: 72,000 B.C. – 800 cu. km ash, 1,000 million tons of aerosols, six years of relentless volcanic winter, coldest 1,000 years of the Last Ice Age. Most of humanity wiped out – a few hundred, a few thousand remained alive afterward.
  • Santorini, Greece: 1,650 B.C. – 30 cubic km (7 cubic miles) of ash.
  • Rabaul, Papua New Guinea: 536 A.D. – 300 million tons of aerosols
  • Laki, Iceland: 1783 A.D. – 14 cu. km magma, 100 million tons of sulfur dioxide aerosol.
  • Tambora Plinian, Sumbawa: 1815 A.D. – 20-50 cu. km magma, 200 million tons of sulfuric acid aerosol, "The year without a summer".
  • Krakatau, Indonesia: 1883 A.D. – 50 million tons of aerosols.
  • Agung: 1963 AD – 10 to 20 million tons of aerosols.
  • Saint Helen, Washington, US: 1981 A.D. – 1 cu. km ash.
  • Mount Pinatubo, Luzon, Philippines: 1991 A.D. – 30 million tons of aerosols.
  • El Chichon, Mexico: 1992 A.D. – 10 to 20 million tons of aerosols.

As you can see, what most of us think of as a huge volcanic eruption (Saint Helen) is a very minor historical one indeed. All of the great eruptions proceeded human time. Only one – Mount Toba – is believed to have had a significant impact on humans. The others caused some deaths, and disruptions, but nothing more.

Thus baring a Yellowstone eruption (overdue, but some time in the next 200,000 years) or a collapse in the Canary Islands (some time in the next 200 years), we should not see any disastrous (Mount Toba scale) effects on humans or climate from volcanic eruptions.

In the long term, climate and its effects on us and the world at large will be determined by the Sun, not by anything man does, not even nuclear war would have greater effects than a sudden large increase or decrease in solar output. If the Sun when out, then the Earth would freeze over. If the Sun went nova, then the Earth would burn and melt.

In the end, either climate theory could turn out to be correct. But in either eventuality who’s right or wrong won’t matter – an inconvenient fact.
–PIF – 01/30/2004

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