Where Are We Headed?

An Iraqi man and his child enjoy the snow in Eastern Baghdad on January 11, 2008.

Here in Austin on the day before Thanksgiving, it’s 50 degrees and cloudy at 8:30 in the morning. In Alert, Canada, it’s -9 and clear. Fort Yukon, Alaska, has -13 with overcast skies. There’s light snow in St. Petersburg, Russia, with a temperature of 30 degrees. Basically, we’re in the quiet before the storm. Most of the forecasters whom I respect and pay attention to say December will be the coldest it has been in decades at most locations in the Northern Hemisphere.

A few things that have taken place in the last 18 months: The Pacific Decadal Oscillation, of which El Ninos and La Nina are constituent parts, has switched from its warm phase to its cool phase. It’s a 30-year cycle, and during the last cool phase of the cycle temperatures fell worldwide. It was largely during this time that baby boomers formed their memories of winter in the Mid-west and Northeast. Another huge shift that is under way: We are entering what is known as a solar minimum, possibly a grand solar minimum. It was likely a series solar minima that produced the Little Ice Age (and the tiny, tight tree rings in the wood used by Stradivarius for his incredibly resonant violins).

What has taken place, climate-wise, during the new regime? Well, for starters, it snowed in Baghdad last year for the first time in at least a hundred years, China had its harshest winter in at least a generation, the American midwest and Pacific Northwest set records for snow and cold, there was an October snowstorm in London a little over three weeks ago for the first time since 1922, New Zealand and Australia saw more snow in their winter just ending, falling later in the season, than in memory, with the most recent snow in Australia coming just last week.

Are all of these events simply “noise,” in the parlance of climate professionals? Possibly.

And possibly not.

About Harold Ambler

I am a lifelong environmentalist. I started my journalism career at The New Yorker, where I worked as a copy editor. Since then, my own work has appeared in The New York Daily News, The National Review Online, The Atlantic Wire, The Huffington Post, The Berkeley Daily Planet, The Providence Journal, Brown Alumni Monthly, The Narragansett Times, Rhode Island Monthly, and Providence Business News.
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8 Responses to Where Are We Headed?

  1. hugo s says:

    I followed the link over from solar cycle 24. been following the ups and downs and discussions and what nots over there for a long while. feels like a fresh start here. congratulations on the new site, i think its a good idea to focus things a little.

    I’m a fan of the weather too and have been doing my best to follow the various debates and discussions on various sites about AGW since i was convinced 18 months ago that AGW is a huge exaggeration and mostly just hot air (sorry)(funnily enough only after watching Al Gores movie did I become suspicious).

    I really believe there’s far too much c##p out there and only the continued study of the weather and its direct effects on earth and humans will clarify eventually this whole situation we find ourselves in. There is far too much reliance on supposedly super programs and models that give only give the answer the scientists want to get, it feels like we’ve got our heads in the sand. Policies and laws are being passed based on these and the politicians are so embroiled in all this they cant even look out the window and see what happening.
    I’m convinced (and i really hope) that the global temperature do drop significantly because I’m sick of hearing about all this. we’ve got enough on our plates with all the other issues of our times (deforestation, urbanization, pollution, ecological problems, and not to mention the big one right now the financial meltdown etc), issues i consider very important but totally separate from the lie that is AGW.

    anyway these my views.
    as for temperatures globally, (in my humble opinion), the main input of energy into the whole system cannot be anything but the sun and the way this heat is spread around, stored and/or released is obviously mainly via the oceans, everything else is just details, small percentages here or there. the AMO and PDO are the two biggest oceanic cycles and affect hugely the northern hemispheres’ weather (where most of the changes we see occur), the juxtaposition of these three cycles is what gives us our decadal weather patterns.
    if the PDO stays negative for the next 20 or 30 years and the AMO goes negative in a decade or so as they should according to their last period and the sun stays quiet, then things will really get cooler. meanwhile ice cover worldwide back to normal for this time of year, but of course we wont read that in the regular press.

    I look forward to reading more on this site about all this.

  2. Harold Ambler says:

    Hey Hugo — welcome. It sounds like we’re on the same page with where things are likely to go in the next few decades, a very exciting time to be following climate! I’ll be debating AGW at an event here in Austin Wednesday evening. I feel that I have done my homework, but I am concerned coral die-offs. Do you happen to know anything about past C02-related coral die-offs, either in the Holocene or before, or is the one taking place around the globe today the first of its kind?

    P.S. I don’t feel that C02 is the only possible explanation for the current die-off, but I am curious if there is evidence of similar events in the geological record. I’ve done a fair mount of searching into this, without much in the way of success.

  3. hugo s says:

    Nope, sorry cant help you with that. i have a geology degree with two years of oceanography but this was not something I studied very much. I wont be adding anything that you don’t already know I’m sure.
    good luck with the debate.

  4. Dennis Ambler says:

    Yes, that’s right, another Ambler on the AGW trail, this one from the UK. I hope these links and extracts on corals are useful.

    The claim that oceans are acidifying is a reporting distortion to give dramatic effect. In fact they are slightly less alkaline, but that does not mean that calcium is dissolving. It can’t do that above pH7.

    Ocean acidification is the name given to the ongoing decrease in the pH of the Earth’s oceans, caused by their uptake of anthropogenic carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Between 1751 and 1994 surface ocean pH is estimated to have decreased from approximately 8.179 to 8.104 (a change of -0.075, less than 1% in 244 years).

    That’s acidification??

    The range seems to be considerably greater than this, and all reported changes appear to be well within quite a wide range:

    Note that the Wiki article casually uses the phrase “caused by their uptake of anthropogenic carbon dioxide from the atmosphere”, implying that humans are the only contributors to atmospheric CO2 levels, or even that man made CO2 is somehow different from other CO2 and is the only CO2 absorbed. In fact anthropogenic CO2 additions comprise just 3.207% of all greenhouse gas concentrations, (ignoring water vapor): http://www.geocraft.com/WVFossils/greenhouse_data.html

    Some additional links challenging the long term demise of coral reefs:

    Coral adaptation

    coastal and shallow water denizens experience wide ranges of alkalinity and salinity because they are subjected to rainfall and land runoff, yet they survive alkalinity much lower (i.e., acidification) than the relatively trivial change due to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.

    Marine critters survive quite happily despite there being ocean outgassing zones (where CO2 is transferred from ocean to atmosphere, implying saturation) so changes in the size of these zones (which have existed far longer than has industrialization) implies no disaster.

    Previous periods in Earth’s history have demonstrated much higher temperatures (e.g. the Cretaceous, with globally averaged temperatures 6-14 °C higher than at present), higher carbon dioxide levels (4-6 times present levels) and simultaneously supporting vast numbers of chalk producing critters (think deposition of the White Cliffs of Dover).

    Then there’s current coccolithophores: http://www.physorg.com/news128613620.html

    Mollusks, corals and other calcium carbonate shell formers evolved in the Ordovician, when carbon dioxide levels were an order of magnitude greater than those of today.

    The Ordovician environment » Paleoclimate

    Numerical climate models as well as carbon isotope measurements from preserved Ordovician soils suggest that atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide during the period were 14–16 times higher than today.

    Despite high carbon dioxide levels in the Ordovician Period, evidence of cooler climates in higher latitudes is seen by the presence of unweathered mica in sedimentary rocks from North Africa, central and southern Europe, and much of South America.

    The Ordovician period began approximately 490 million years ago, with the end of the Cambrian, and ended around 443 million years ago, with the beginning of the Silurian.

    The Ordovician is best known for the presence of its diverse marine invertebrates, including graptolites, trilobites, brachiopods, and the conodonts (early vertebrates). A typical marine community consisted of these animals, plus red and green algae, primitive fish, cephalopods, corals, crinoids, and gastropods.

    You mention “CO2 related die-offs” but I question that concept. Although the warmists claim the Ordovician is proof of CO2 related warming and cooling, it is now accepted that temperature precedes CO2 rise which occurs because of outgassing from a solar-warmed ocean.

    “The Ordovician came to a close in a series of extinction events that, taken together, comprise the second largest of the five major extinction events in Earth’s history in terms of percentage of genera that went extinct.

    The extinctions occurred approximately 444-447 million years ago and mark the boundary between the Ordovician and the following Silurian Period. At that time all complex multicellular organisms lived in the sea, and about 49% of genera of fauna disappeared forever.

    The most commonly accepted theory is that these events were triggered by the onset of an ice age, in the Hirnantian faunal stage that ended the long, stable greenhouse conditions typical of the Ordovician.

    The event was preceded by a fall in atmospheric carbon dioxide (from 7000ppm to 4400ppm, 0.7% – 0.44%).”

    In 2007, atmospheric CO2 at Mauna Loa was a measly 383.7ppm, (0.038%), almost 12 times lower than the end of the Ordovician, so how did an ice age occur at those levels of CO2 if this trace gas is the planetary thermostat it is claimed to be?

    Coral Reef primer:


    The idea that the Great Barrier Reef may be destroyed by global warming is not new, but it is a myth. The expected rise in sea level associated with global warming may benefit coral reefs and the Great Barrier Reef is likely to extend its range further south. Global threats to the coral reefs of the world include damaging fish practices and pollution, and the UN should work harder to address these issues. (Dynamiting of reefs for fishing is common).

    Most of the world’s great reefs are tropical because corals like warm water. Many of the species found on the Great Barrier Reef can also be found in regions with much warmer water, for example around Papua New Guinea. Corals predate dinosaurs and over the past couple of hundred million years have shown themselves to be remarkably resistant to climate change, surviving both hotter and colder periods.

    But the rise in sea level is not what is claimed: sea level rise

    Click to access MornerInterview.pdf

    Ocean temperatures are also blamed for bleaching, for an eminent Oceanographer’s view of ocean temperature, here is an excellent article by Dr. Robert E. Stevenson, (now deceased):

    Contrary to recent press reports that the oceans hold the still-undetected global atmospheric warming predicted by climate models, ocean warming occurs in 100-year cycles, independent of both radiative and human influences.

    Good luck Wednesday!

  5. Julian says:

    CO2 Science has quite a few papers on coral and coral bleaching here,


    in their subject index, including from memory some on experiments with raised temperature and CO2 which the coral coped with quite well. Good site for refuting the ‘CO2 is a pollutant’ nonsense.

  6. Peggy Schneider says:

    I saw you on Red Eye and decided I had to comment. A couple of years ago I purchased several National Geographic magazines at a garage sale. One happened to be the Nov. 1976 Vol 150, NO. 5 where they talk about global cooling and how the climate is changing. (WHAT’S HAPPENING TO OUR CLIMATE? pg. 576) Seems they are talking about a 30 year cycle. It has been about 30 years since then. I hope you are able to find this issue. If not please contact me. I was afraid to let Al Gore know about this. He wouldn’t have anything to do.

  7. William Alexander says:

    Of course Al would have something to do! He would have to collect all the remaining copies of the November 1976 National Geographic, No. 5, and have them burned (thus increasing anthropogenic global warming — AGW — also called Al Gore Warming).

  8. Phil Lowe says:

    I remember TV programs in the late 70s telling us we were headed towards another ice age. Alarmists take extreme views regardless of the “cause du jour”, because it makes it easier to bilk the gullible out of their money that way.

    In other words, because “there’s a sucker born every minute,” simply “tell a big enough lie long enough and people will believe it.”

    Al Gore and his ilk thrive on these two axioms of human nature.

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