We are hearing that Great Britain is experiencing the coldest December in 1,000 years. We also know that atmospheric temperatures more or less stopped warming in 1998 and ocean heat content (the more important metric of the earth’s temperature) is steady or slightly falling. These measurements are markedly different than the forecasts of warming made by the International Panel on Climate Change, the group cited by most global warming proponents.
As discussed in Part II, what if these indications of cooling are just that: Signs of cooling? Since many (see here and here) are advocating cooling and desire to spend tremendous sums of money to make it happen, I must ask if this is a situation where we need to be careful what we wish for.
What might be the source of the cooling? Less energy from the sun.
When I was in meteorology school, before satellites measured the sun’s output from above the earth’s atmosphere, we were incorrectly taught about “the solar constant.” That is, the sun’s output was thought to be the same year after year, in spite of astronomers observing a variety of sunspot changes over the centuries.
Some thought the number of sunspots might affect the weather but they were generally outside the mainstream of scientific thinking.
Now, we know the sun’s output varies. Still, the IPCC has generally thought the effect of the sun’s changes on climate are minimal.
Looks like we are about to find out whether the IPCC's hypothesis is correct.
Below is a forecast of sunspots made by the National Oceanic and Administration in 2006. Sunspot numbers were predicted to peak at about 150 in early 2010. That forecast is the solid white line below. The dotted white lines indicate the “confidence interval,” that is NOAA was 95% confident the actual value would fall between the two dotted lines (i.e., a peak between 130 and 170).
The blue line is the sunspot numbers up until last month (latest available data). To put it mildly, the original forecast was wildly inaccurate.
More importantly, the previous solar cycle (the one that peaked in 2001) lasted much longer than normal and some scientists believe that, in itself, is a sign of cooling. Other scientists believe there are connections between both cosmic rays and clouds and/or the sun’s magnetic output (which is currently at very low levels) are tied to earth’s temperatures.
To demonstrate what appears to be a strong correlation, please look at the graph of world temperatures for the last 2,000 years.
Now, I have focused on the last 500 years of temperature data and put it next to graph of sunspot activity. There appears to be a strong correlation.
|Closeup of Temperatures the last 500 Years|
|The solid black line is the sunspot number. Temperatures (compare to graph above) |
plummet at the Maunder Minimum with a
secondary drop associated with the Dalton Minimum.
There are astronomers that are predicting that we are starting to experience another “Dalton Minimum.” If so, and if the correlation of sun to earth’s temperature is correct, major cooling may indeed occur.
Since a significant number of environmental groups want cooling to occur, it must be a good thing, right? Hardly!
Here is a chart of earth’s temperatures (as measured by thermometers) since 1850.
Note the cooling that occurred from about 1945 to 1978. This is when the MSM, and some of the same people that have been recently warning of warming, were warning of cooling.
Horrible famines occurred in the 1970's but ended. Why? The unexpected warming of earth’s temperatures combined with The Green Revolution. Warmer weather means longer growing seasons; more CO2 in the air means crops grow more efficiently, and – in some cases – crops can be grown over larger areas of the world.
Today, while there is of course starvation in the world, it is not due to absence of food. There is sufficient food today to feed everyone. But, corrupt governments and faulty distribution prevents some of it from getting to the people who need it.
But, what about the future?
Given our experiences in the late 1960’s and 1970’s – and a larger world population today – it is likely that mass starvation would again commence if temperatures were to drop to the levels of the Dalton Minimum (DM). We simply could not grow enough food in the colder climate. In a DM scenario, the extra CO2 in the atmosphere might a form of “insurance” keeping temperatures warmer than they otherwise would be.
I have no opinion whether this will occur. As pointed out in Part II, no one has demonstrated skill in forecasting future climate. But, as a person who is a strong advocate of mitigating risks, we cannot focus solely on the risk posed by global warming when the apparent consequences of significant cooling are far more serious.
The bottom line: As my friend Dr. Roger Pielke, Jr., says, we need to build a more resilient society to extremes of weather – regardless of what those extremes might be.