CLIMATE CONCERN IS MISDIRECTED
Viv has a degree in Applied Science Geology and is a Fellow of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
“Climate” is sometimes defined as the thirty year “average” of weather. Climate is what we expect, on average – weather is what we actually get.
It is true that atmospheric conditions (dust, smoke, smog, aerosols, aircraft contrails, clouds and trace gases) can affect Earth’s weather. But none of these minor atmospheric constituents can generate energy – they merely filter, block, reflect, transfer or redirect a portion of solar energy.
The effects of any changes tend to be short-lived, or reversed as the atmosphere clears; or they often trigger negative feedbacks that largely offset the initial effect. In particular, carbon dioxide does not drive the weather. No weather forecaster notes what tomorrow’s level of CO2 is likely to be, and no farmer wonders what it will be next spring.
The sun is the short-term weather wizard. It clearly controls the changing temperatures of day and night, winter and summer; it energises the atmosphere to give the power to storms and cyclones; together with the Moon it produces tides and gyres and their changing cycles drive weather cycles on Earth.
Meteorologists, long-range forecasters who study solar and planetary phases, and many intelligent farmers are best placed to forecast weather. The carbon-centric model predictions have failed dismally, suggesting strongly that carbon dioxide does not control weather.
Does CO2 drive longer-term climate change?
Earth currently basks in a benign climate interval, an interglacial warm period punctuated by occasional “Little Ice Ages” and between long periodic species-destroying eras of ice. As recently as twelve thousand years ago, large parts of Earth’s surface were covered by ice sheets up to 3km thick. Many species of mega-fauna disappeared suddenly in this cataclysm.
Global warming has never been a threat to Earth’s inhabitants, even with temperatures several degrees above those of this modern warm era. The real danger to life on Earth is global cooling, and its big brother, Snow-ball Earth.
Studies of sun-spots and other solar variables suggest that a “Little Ice Age” is probably caused by solar variations. If solar activity decreases, two things happen. Firstly, Earth’s surface cools because of the reduced solar radiation. Secondly, the sun’s magnetic shield also weakens, allowing more cosmic rays to strike the atmosphere, thus creating more nuclei for cloud generation.
The extra cloud cover adds to the cooling trend by shading the surface and reflecting more solar radiation.
Those who study solar cycles are already warning that Earth is facing the likely onset of a modern “Little Ice Age”.
See: Heading for a little Ice Age now?
Intuition tells us that all we need for a “Big Ice Age” is sustained cold on Earth’s surface. This would indeed strip most of the moisture out of the atmosphere as rain, hail and snow; freeze lakes and rivers; produce cold dry deserts; and create growing fringes of sea-ice in previously temperate latitudes.
But cold alone will not create continents of thick ice from coast to coast. To create massive ice sheets, energy is needed to evaporate a huge volume of water from the oceans which is then condensed in the cold atmosphere and added to the ice sheets growing on land.
Some ice ages also start suddenly. Millions of mammoths and other mega-fauna were buried in hail which was so sudden and sustained that their un-decomposed carcasses are still being excavated from their icy tombs.
For large ice sheets to grow quickly on land two things are required – warm seas to evaporate billions of tons of water from the oceans, and a frigid atmosphere over land to quickly turn that moisture into continental rain, snow and ice. As cloud cover increases, and snow falls in increasing amounts, the white snowy surface reflects more solar energy back into space, maintaining the cold atmosphere despite the expulsion of large quantities of two “greenhouse” gases (water vapour and carbon dioxide) from the heated oceans into the atmosphere.
To plunge Earth suddenly into a sustained “Big Ice Age” thus requires huge amounts of energy to heat the seas while not warming the atmosphere – neither solar energy nor any greenhouse gas can do this. Geothermal energy from widespread undersea volcanism is the most likely agent.
Don’t judge the capacity of volcanic/geothermal heat by looking at conditions in the modern very calm interglacial period – you must look at the record of the rocks.
Every geological era ends with cataclysmic events. Geologists originally recognised era boundaries by the dramatic changes in lithology and fossil content across the boundary. For example, suppose limestones with coral fossils and desert sandstones are replaced suddenly by extensive thick layers of basaltic lava and ash, the lot later laced by swarms of granitic dykes. When such a change was recognised over great distances, or on different continents, it became known as an era boundary.
Further study is revealing that much more than rock changes happened at era boundaries – earth movements, tidal waves, world-wide volcanic and igneous activity, geo-magnetic reversals, ice ages, sea level changes and species extinction.
Ocean research is revealing that long strips of molten crustal rocks are periodically exposed by Earth movements along faulted trenches in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. Like kettles on the stove, the oceans above these “Belts of Fire” get hot, releasing water vapour and carbon dioxide gases. A cold cloudy atmosphere completes the conveyor belt, condensing water and soluble gases from the atmosphere to produce fast-growing snow fields and ice sheets.
Era-ending volcanic activity is not just a bit of smoke and ash emerging from a couple of lazy vents along one of the rings of fire. It seems to involve sudden awakening along every submarine volcanic rift in the world – maybe 50,000 km of length and each new rift maybe 10-20 km wide. Large areas of molten magma are exposed under all major oceans, transferring massive quantities of geo-thermal heat into the oceans. Some shallow seas are evaporated, as shown by extensive layers of brine under some seas.
At the same time terrestrial volcanoes are jolted into life, covering large land areas with thick molten lava, and filling the skies with dense clouds of ash, smoke, dust and noxious fumes. The dark skies blot out the warmth of the sun, the atmosphere becomes deathly cold and the moisture being driven from the heated oceans falls incessantly as rain, hail and snow. On land that precipitation becomes ice.
This is not the slow global cooling induced by solar weakening – the ice accumulates fast.
The volcanic cataclysm seems to be triggered by geo-magnetic reversals, which may be caused by the passage of the solar system through the galactic plane. These magnetic reversals also affect magnetic particles in all rocks, and may trigger electric surges that add to the geo-thermal heating and travel through salt water to kill many sea creatures. The whole episode can also trigger earth movements, fault mobilisation, earthquakes and tidal waves.
There have been at least 18 extinction climaxes since the Precambrian, and almost every one includes massive volcanism and ice ages.
For good information on the likely processes, and many references, see this thoughtful and very readable book:
Felix, Robert W, 2000, “Not by Fire but by Ice”, Sugarhouse Publishing, Washington.
Minor eruptions from undersea volcanoes can change ocean temperatures and currents, and produce weather disrupters such as El Nino. Huge eruptions (or large meteor impacts) can trigger earthquakes, global veils of dust and aerosols, tidal waves or even a new ice age.
Massive Chain of volcanoes discovered in the Southern Ocean:
Retreat of the ice sheets requires a reversal of the water-ice conveyor belt – melt the ice, evaporate the water and condense the moisture back into now cooling oceans. Only continental volcanism, maybe assisted by warming solar cycles, can cause the often-fast retreat of the ice sheets.
To make these dramatic/alarming changes to Earth’s climate requires far more energy than human industry or traces of non-combustible gases in the atmosphere can provide.
Water vapour is by far the most important greenhouse gas (carbon dioxide is a bit player), but neither of these gases can warm Earth out of an ice age. A cold atmosphere has limited ability to hold these greenhouse gases – water vapour condenses quickly in the cold air and is lost as rain and snow; carbon dioxide is lost by dissolving in the cold water and then gets trapped in the ice sheets. The Vostok Ice Core data shows clearly that carbon dioxide falls as temperature falls, with temperature, not CO2, leading the process.
The sparse greenhouse gases that remain in a frigid atmosphere are powerless to break the grip of the ice. It needs agencies which provide real energy into the system (such as geothermal heat under the ice, assisted by solar energy in the now-clear skies).
Carbon dioxide does not drive weather, or climate, or the icy extinctions – it varies mainly as a result, not the cause, of past temperature changes. Its great role in the global scheme is to feed the biosphere.
To spend money trying to interfere with the carbon cycle is foolish and wasteful; to try to bury carbon dioxide is a crime against the biosphere.
Climate always changes but Man does not control it.
Instead of wasting vast amounts of money on useless climate models and futile attempts to reduce the atmospheric content of a benign and beneficial gas like carbon dioxide, we should redirect climate research funds into studying the cycles of ice ages, submarine volcanism, magnetic reversals, solar activity, asteroids and comets – one of these is more likely to cause our next climate catastrophe.
Meteorologists, astrophysicists, geologists and cycles analysts, not government-directed carbon-centric climate modellers, are best placed to forecast future trends in climates.