If the notion of global warming has gotten you all hot and bothered, here’s something to really worry about. What if just the opposite is occurring and global temperatures not only continue to remain flat, but get much colder for a very long time? In fact, that’s exactly what some highly credentialed and well-informed scientists are predicting.
Yes, and what if carbon dioxide, particularly that 3% of total atmospheric CO2 we humans produce, winds up being a bit player, at the very most, on the stage of climactic scene changes? Instead, imagine that the leading roles are performed by other actors, principally the Sun and oceans who follow scripts written, produced and directed by none other than that incomparable impresario, Mother Nature herself.
Where, Oh Where, Has that Global Warming Gone?
For starters, while it should be understood that climate really does change, it’s also appropriate to recognize that global temperatures have been essentially flat since at least 1998. Recent readings taken from more than 30,000 measuring stations and released in 2012 by the U.K.’s Met Office and the University of East Anglia University Climate Research Unit show that world temperatures hadn’t warmed over the past 15 years.
In fact, about half of all estimated warming since 1900 occurred before the mid-1940s despite continuously rising CO2 levels since that time.
The past century has witnessed two generally accepted periods of warming (although whether or not the second can be proven will be debated by experts in an upcoming article…so stay tuned). The first occurred between 1900 and 1945. Since CO2 levels were relatively low then compared with now, and didn’t change much, they couldn’t have been the cause before 1950.
The second possible warming, following a slight cool-down, may have begun in the late 1970s lasting until 1998, a strong Pacific Ocean El Niño year. Yet even if global temperatures actually did rise very slightly during that second period, the U.K. Hadley Center and U.S. NOAA balloon instrument analyses fail to show any evidence, whatsoever, of a human CO2 emission-influenced warming telltale “signature” in the upper troposphere over the equator as predicted by all UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) global circulation models.
Climate change has been going on for a very long time…dating back to always. It actually began to occur even before the advent of flatulent dinosaurs, industrial smoke stacks and SUVs. And although temperatures have been generally mild over about the past 150 years (since the end of the last “Little Ice Age”…not a true Ice Age), we should remember that significant fluctuations are normal.
Spotlights on the Sun
Many scientific studies indicate that the global climate will soon enter a substantial cooling phase attributable to a weak new solar cycle. This is predicted due to important modulating cloud-forming influences of cosmic rays throughout periods of reduced sunspot activity. More clouds tend to make conditions cooler, while fewer often cause warming.
Solar output typically goes through 11-year cycles, with high numbers of sunspots seen at their peak. We are currently approaching the peak of “Solar Cycle 24,” yet sunspot numbers are running at less than half of those observed during other 20th century peaks. A paper released by the Met Office, the U.K.’s national weather office, projected a 92% chance that both Solar Cycle 25, and those taking place in following decades, will be as weak, or weaker than, a “Dalton minimum” of 1790 to 1830. That’s when average European temperatures fell by 2º Celsius.
Some prominent U.S. and Russian solar physicists predict that Planet Earth may very well be heading into a period of protracted cooling due to a lengthy spell of low sunspot activity … potentially entering another Little Ice Age. The last event of this type, which occurred in the middle of the 16th century, wasn’t broadly regarded as a good time. That period, lasting about 150 years, killed millions in Europe, ending soon after Washington’s troops suffered brutal winter temperatures at Valley Forge in 1777, and Napoleon’s experienced a bitterly cold retreat from Russia in 1812.
Matt Penn and William Livingston of the U.S. National Solar Observatory and U.S. Air Force Laboratory believe that the Earth is entering a cooling phase based upon three different analyses of the Sun’s recent behavior. It is now in the final stages of Solar Cycle 24, “the weakest in more than 50 years.” They predict that by the time Solar Cycle 25 soon arrives, “magnetic fields on the Sun will be so weak that few sunspots will be formed.”
Scientists at Russia’s prestigious Pulkovo Observatory in St. Petersburg have stated that solar activity is waning to such an extent that the global average yearly temperature will begin to decline into a very cold and protracted climate phase. Observatory head Habibullo Abdussamatov, one of the world’s leading solar scientists, member of the Russian Academy of Science, and director of the Russian segment of the International Space Station, believes that the deep freeze will last until the end of this century. He predicts that: “after the maximum of Solar Cycle 24, from approximately 2014, we can expect the start of the next bicentennial cycle of deep cooling with a Little Ice Age in 2055 plus or minus 11 years” (the 19th to occur in the past 7,500 years).
Dr. Abdussamatov points out that over the last 1,000 years deep cold periods have occurred five times. Each is correlated with declines in solar irradiance much like we are experiencing now — with no human influence. “A global freeze will come about regardless of whether or not industrialized countries put a cap on their greenhouse gas emissions. The common view of Man’s industrial activity is a deciding factor in global warming has emerged from a misinterpretation of cause and effect.”
Many solar experts challenge Met Office claims that the greenhouse effects of man-made carbon dioxide are sufficiently strong to overwhelm potential solar cooling, much less to produce net warming. They point out that the Met’s assessment is based upon highly theoretical climate models that exaggerate CO2 influence, while failing to account for numerous other more important contributing factors.
Judith Curry, a well-known climatologist who chairs the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, finds the Met’s confident prediction of a “negligible” solar impact “difficult to understand”. She has stated that “The responsible thing to do would be to accept the fact that the models may have severe shortcomings when it comes to the influence of the Sun”. As for a predicted warming pause, she said that many scientists “are not surprised”.
Curry also notes important contributions of 60-year Pacific and Atlantic Ocean temperature cycles, observing that they have been “insufficiently appreciated in terms of global climate”. When both oceans were cold in the past, such as from 1940 to 1970, the climate cooled. The Pacific “flipped” back from a warm to a cold mode in 2008, and the Atlantic is also thought likely to flip back in the next few years.
How Oceans Make Climate Waves
As pointed out in my recent article, “Meteorologist Joe Bastardi: Blaming Turbulent Weather on Global Warming is Extreme Nonsense,” changing climate and fluctuating weather consequences are driven primarily by natural changes in solar cycles, ocean temperatures and “stochastic events” such as volcanoes. The first two occur on various long-term cycles; decades and centuries with the Sun, and decades for the oceans. The stochastic events are random wild cards.
Right now we’re seeing the same kind of major events on a regional scale that occurred in the early 1950s. That was the last time the Pacific Ocean shifted its temperature phase from warm to cold when the Atlantic was in a warm phase, and globally, the Earth’s temperatures have fallen about 0.05° C in the last four years. The European and Far East winters also look very similar now to those in the 1950s. Alaska has once again turned much colder, just as it did then when the Pacific temperatures cooled and sea ice expanded.
Here in the U.S., a drop in tropical Pacific temperatures causes less moisture to be present in the atmosphere than when that ocean is in its warming state. That causes conditions to be drier, especially near and east of the Rockies, as well as in the Deep South. This is when we see hotter, drier summers; winters tend be warmer earlier, and colder later. We’re also seeing colder spring temperatures caused by a multi-decadal warming temperature shift in the Atlantic which has greatest influence in the late winter and spring, forcing what is called a negative North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO).
Based upon ocean temperatures alone (not including solar influences), springs like this year in the lower 48 U.S. states, although not as extremely cold, can be expected to be more common during the next 5 to 10 years. We can also expect to witness increased tornado activity which is linked to the cold decadal Pacific shift and a cooling globe. This happens when cool air in northwest North America trying to find a pathway southeast collides with warm air coming from the south in a clash zone right in the center of our nation.
As Joe Bastardi observes, “Mother Nature is always searching for a balance she can never fully achieve because of the design of the system. It’s not unlike Aquinas’s search for the unmoved mover. We rotate around the Sun on an axis that tilts, with more land in the Northern Hemisphere than Southern Hemisphere. [Climate and] weather is a movie, so we have to keep an eye on what the director is up to.”
So while some alarmists have screamed about the northern ice cap melting due to warming, a condition actually caused by the Atlantic’s multi-decadal phase, the southern ice cap has increased to record levels. This is even a more impressive feat because, since being surrounded by water, it requires more cooling to freeze that ice than it does to warm cold dry air on continental surfaces that surround the Arctic Ocean. But as soon as the Atlantic goes into its cold mode, the northern ice cap will expand again as the southern ice cap shrinks. This is but one example of how the back-and-forth mechanism works.
Climate of Fear and Foreboding
Keep in mind that recent global warming alarmism has centered upon a temperature trend that began in the 1980s, occurring less than a decade after our planet came out of a three-decade cooling trend that led many to fear a coming Ice Age. As the late world-renowned atmospheric scientist Reid Bryson, formerly a leader in voicing Ice Age concern in the 1970s, said: “Before there were enough people to make any difference at all, 2 million years ago, nobody was changing the climate, yet the climate was changing, okay?” He went on to comment “You can go outside and spit and have the same effect as doubling carbon dioxide.”
Also consider, as David Whitehouse at the Global Warming Policy Foundation points out, if current global temperature trends remain flat or become cooler, “it will mean that no one who has just reached adulthood, or younger, will have witnessed the Earth get warmer during their lifetime.”
Vladimir Bashkin and Rauf Kaliulin from the Institute of Biology of the Russian Academy of Sciences state that warming during our past century is something we should have expected when coming out of a the Little Ice Age rather than resulting from any changes caused by human activities. Cold causes more disruptions for people than warming, and humanity has always prospered most during warmer periods.
Whether cooling continues or not, is there any reason at all to panic? No, but by the same token if, for any reason, global warming resumes as it probably will, again and again following intermittent cool-downs, let’s be grateful for the many human health and welfare benefits it brings. Let’s celebrate times when CO2-dependent agriculture flourishes over extended growing seasons, and when cold-related death rates decline. Also, in the unlikely event that we humans can and do have any influence on climate, let’s really hope that the good ol’ plant-nourishing CO2 we release will help rescue us from a truly chilling alternative.
In the meantime, however, it might be a good idea to hedge your bets. If I were you, I wouldn’t discard those flannel Long Johns just yet. There’s a very good chance that you are going to need them over the next many years.
A version of this article first appeared in Forbes Online.