What are Ice Ages and How Often Do They Occur?
The term ice age refers to two different events. Over the long history of our planet there have been five ice ages of note. These were super nasty life destroying monsters. The last one ended millions of years ago. More recently, we have called various glacial and interglacial periods ice ages as well.
These more modern versions have appeared fairly regularly – displaying a pattern that has repeated itself about every 100,000 years or so. See chart below.
The key item of focus is that the warm interglacial’s last about 10,000 years with the rest of the cycle (getting cooler and recovering from a bottom) lasting about 90,000 years. So where are we in terms of the latest cycle? Alas we are in a warming period that has lasted about 11,000 years (1000 years longer than “normal”). The bad news is that when the cooling starts, it can happen quickly … sometimes in as few as a couple of decades.)
AGW climate scientists believe we are insulated from future ice ages because our CO2 levels are higher than in previous interglacial’s. They believe that these CO2 levels will protect us for an additional 1500 years or more. These assurances are based on computer models (cough cough) which are “never wrong.”
I note that ice ages typically cause a temperature drop of 10 degrees centigrade with local changes frequently running about twice that high. One can imagine what a multi-thousand year pattern like this could do to human agriculture and industry. This could be devastation on a grand scale.
So What Causes Ice Ages?
While there are many factors as in all climate events, our old friend the sun seems to be the main suspect. It turns out the sun’s orbit with earth changes due to:
- changes in Earth’s orbit around the Sun (eccentricity)
- shifts in the tilt of Earth’s axis (obliquity), and
- the wobbling motion of Earth’s axis (precession),
Thus, when the radiative energy from the sun gets low enough, the polar caps begin to freeze. This changes the planets albedo as more sunlight is reflected back into space. Also, as previously mentioned volcanic eruptions tend to be higher during cold weather and so you might have a darkened sky from volcanic ash blocking out the sun.
To reverse this cycle, you might have more land mass available for forests as the ice caps cause sea levels to drop. These would allow more sunlight to reach the earth’s growing forests thus starting a warming period which would be accelerated by the reversing of the suns orbital patterns.
It’s undoubtedly way more complicated than that, but that is a start to understanding the 100,000 year ice age cycles. The key lesson is that there is little we can do to change the orbital patterns of earth around the sun. Unless you hold an extreme view on the role of CO2, there will be more ice ages and they will cause havoc. Worse, one could start fairly soon if history repeats itself.
The 70’s Theories About The Coming Ice Age?
For the 70’s theory see the video below. It really is interesting in that it talks about how retreating glaciers leave behind “rock dust” which replenishes the forest nutrients which were leached out of the soil due to excessive water (caused by the warming phase). The greening and ungreening of the earth they maintain explained the waxing and waning cycle of ice ages.
Well surprise … surprise, if you watched the video closely, you realize that CO2 is again one of the culprits (only in reverse) and the solution was ending our dependence on so called fossil fuels. So in the 70’s when the earth cooled for a bit, the climate scientists were claiming an ice age was on the way and then in the 80’s and 90’s when the planet warmed for a bit, they switched to death by fire. But in all cases, man was to blame and deindustrialization was the answer. How can the same solution be needed for both warming and cooling you ask?
Well … nothing up my left sleeve and nothing up my right sleeve so presto digito … we have the theory of everything. Einstein would be so proud we had a theory of everything, but he would no doubt be horrified to learn that it meant abandoning the scientific method to get there.
I love it when people claim that both hotter temperatures and colder temperatures prove Climate Change. It is as if they are predicting that it will rain tomorrow … or not rain. That’s so fabulous … you can’t be wrong. That’s why today’s climate scientists are really deniers of the scientific method. Here is an example from the IPCC. Please note that these predictions had high confidence levels associated with them.
See how the actual temperatures (including the actual trend line) fell consistently outside even the lower end of their models. But no problem, they lowered their models for the early years in their next iteration and put all the really scary stuff waaay out in the future. I say we Feynman these models and declare them to be “wrong.” We now have higher levels of CO2, but no global warming for over 18 years. That’s over half of the satellite record. You have made your predictions and now countries like Australia are seeing the models for what they are … bad science.
The Coming Ice Age
Which leads us back to the coming ice age. Looking at the chart at the very top and seeing that we are at the far right of that chart, I ask you do you really think it’s gonna get hotter from there or do you thinks it going to get much colder. The truth is that there are no positive feedback loops for heat. If CO2 really triggered a runaway greenhouse effect, the earth would have fried years ago when the planet had 10 times the level of CO2 that we have today. It just doesn’t work that way. There are feedback loops for cold however and we better stop demonizing fossil fuels. Those will be all that gets us through a 90,000 year period of colder whether that is very likely on the way.
The Moral Case For Fossil Fuels
If our very survival depends on energy, it is time we looked at the role of fossil fuels not as a necessary evil, but as a necessary good. The moral case for fossil fuels has never been greater as we see what might happen in just a blink of the cosmic time scale. The worlds policy makers have this exactly wrong. The goal should not be an unchanging earth, the goal should be what is best for humanity and that almost certainly means a prominent role for fossil fuels until it’s replacement is found (Thorium where are You?)
For a great read, see The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels by Alex Epstein (see above). There are some great debates online as well. The one with the Sierra Club was my favorite. (see below) The lawyer for the Sierra Club was very skilled and the wizard appreciated his spirited defense of a no energy policy. If they would at least argue for nuclear (particularly Thorium LFTR reactors) I would appreciate their view so much more, but just de-industrializing the world is a scary concept. Doesn’t anybody care about the third world and mass starvations? With a coming ice age and a Maunder minimum cycle just around the corner, now more than ever we need a realistic energy policy. Being against hydro, natural gas, oil and coal is just cold hearted and wrong.
The wizard has had a lifelong love of science. Being placed outside of the circle of trust on this one area of “science” has been hurtful. I hate it that people I admire like Neil Degrasse Tyson are on the other side. But this area of scientific inquiry has so clearly been taken over by politics, that I had to devote a few Posts to help in my small way to expose the bad science that has been promulgated by the IPCC and others. These are political power grabs … noting more. And the thing is … there are millions of people out there who agree with me. And as time goes by and this fraud is exposed for what it is, there will be millions more.