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Science

Abrupt Climatic Change Coming Soon? 696

Posted by michael
from the move-to-florida dept.
rRaAnNiI writes "Just read an extremely interesting article about the possibility of having a 'little ice age' quite soon - within a decade. The frightening thing is that it makes a lot of sense to me. Does anyone know how to build an igloo?"
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Abrupt Climatic Change Coming Soon?

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  • Yes, they work great. Being a Canadian, we live throu all extreems of weather, it gets above 40 C and below -40 C where i live, so a little colder just means we have to cuddle up with the women some more.
    • by commodoresloat (172735) on Sunday September 29, 2002 @02:42PM (#4354469)
      a little colder just means we have to cuddle up with the women some more.

      But this is slashdot. I suppose we could cuddle up with the stuffed penguins instead.

    • I have no doubt that drastic climate flucuations have occured consistently in the past and will in the future if left on its own. But there is one distinct difference today than in all the Billions of years of climat history - we have the technology. Right now is the first time in Earth's History where we have the capability (but do we have the will?) to change the weather.

      There has been tons of research into technologically induced climate change. Keep in mind these climate changes are happening as a result of gas changes in the atmosphere. Changing the mixture of gases is not a big technological hurdle now. Simply adding iron to the oceans could decrease the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

      Now, coming soon, nanotechnology will enable us to effect the mixture of atmospheric gases substantially. If we do start to get some dramatic cooling effects, procedures could be set into motion to change the gas mixtures to compensate for said cooling. And as the decades go on, our capability in this are will only accelerate. If not, its probably because the humans blew themselves up.
      • by richie2000 (159732) <rickard.olsson@gmail.com> on Sunday September 29, 2002 @03:20PM (#4354649) Homepage Journal
        Simply adding iron to the oceans could decrease the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

        Sooo, basically the WWII Nazi wolfpack subs helped stop the greenhouse effect?

    • by jareth780 (176411) on Sunday September 29, 2002 @03:58PM (#4354830)
      I remember watching videos on how to build igloos in elementary school. They're pretty easy, actually!

      1. Make sure the snow is really hard on top, and at least 4' deep. Make sure you're wearing your snow-shoes or you'll fall through!
      2. Use a long, thin, "snow-cutting" saw to cut the snow into curved-rectangular blocks.
      3. Starting at the base, line the outside of the igloo with the blocks, being sure to leave room for a doorway. You'd be surprised how many hosers forget this!
      4. After each layer, have a beer. This only works if you drink Canadian beer. That's MOLSON Canadian, not that "Canadian budweiser" crap. You can rest your beer on the ice blocks to keep it cold.
      5. As you get to the top and can no longer reach high enough to put any more blocks up, just give up. Who needs an entire igloo anyway? That can be your "breathing hole".
      6. It'll still be freezing, because this is Canada, after all. Build a fire inside your igloo.
      7. If your hole isn't big enough, some of the ice on top will melt. This is normal. If your entire igloo melts, it's too warm for igloos right now. Wait until igloo season.
      8. Since there's no power outlet, you won't be able to watch Hockey Night in Canada in your igloo. Go back to your house and watch it there.

      This is what I can remember from grade 3, so don't quote me on anything.
      • 1. Make sure the snow is really hard on top, and at least 4' deep. Make sure you're wearing your snow-shoes or you'll fall through!
        2. Use a long, thin, "snow-cutting" saw to cut the snow into curved-rectangular blocks.
        3. Starting at the base, line the outside of the igloo with the blocks, being sure to leave room for a doorway. You'd be surprised how many hosers forget this!
        4. After each layer, have a beer. This only works if you drink Canadian beer. That's MOLSON Canadian, not that "Canadian budweiser" crap. You can rest your beer on the ice blocks to keep it cold.
        5. As you get to the top and can no longer reach high enough to put any more blocks up, just give up. Who needs an entire igloo anyway? That can be your "breathing hole".
        6. It'll still be freezing, because this is Canada, after all. Build a fire inside your igloo.
        7. If your hole isn't big enough, some of the ice on top will melt. This is normal. If your entire igloo melts, it's too warm for igloos right now. Wait until igloo season.
        8. Since there's no power outlet, you won't be able to watch Hockey Night in Canada in your igloo. Go back to your house and watch it there.


        9. ???
        10. Profit!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 29, 2002 @02:37PM (#4354445)
    The mini ice age is expected to arrive within the next 3 months. But, don't panic. It's a mini ice age and is only expected to last for, perhaps, 4 months.

    • It seems that these mini ice ages happen once every 1/2 cycle around the sun, switching hemispheres... They have been suspecting that the cause is a fat man with a red suit for the northern hemisphere, but are still unclear as to the cause of the southern yearly iceage...

      • by Anonymous Coward
        Kyoto bans red suits. News at 11.
      • Penguins (Score:5, Funny)

        by Pac (9516) <paulo...candido@@@gmail...com> on Sunday September 29, 2002 @07:43PM (#4355823)
        but are still unclear as to the cause of the southern yearly iceage

        Thousands upon thousands of penguins living in the southern polar cap. They constantly inhale and exhale the cold air there. Every time they exhale, the air move a little bit north (as everyone of them is always facing north). After some months the whole polar air mass is above the southern continents and it takes another three months for the tropical heath to disperse it. At the same time the penguins are hibernating. Then the penguins wake up and start moving the air again.

        An international consortium formed by Autralian, Brazilian and South African tourist industry representatives have a project to kill all penguins (bringing an ethernal summer to the region), but they are being prevented from implementing it by the Greenpeace and a bunch of Linux zealots.
  • by Bloody Bastard (562228) on Sunday September 29, 2002 @02:39PM (#4354450)
    Good for overclockers, bad to cooler makers =)
  • by Trinition (114758) on Sunday September 29, 2002 @02:40PM (#4354454) Homepage
    Abrubt climate changes aren't new. In 1816 [expage.com], there was no summer. Volcanic side effects from the year before blotted out enough light to cause a winterry year.
    • In 1816, there was no summer. Volcanic side effects from the year before blotted out enough light to cause a winterry year.
      ...and the UK has been stuck in a permanent winter ever since.
    • That must be why we need to invade Iraq so desperately. We can stockpile all the oil and use it to stay warm when the blizzard of pure death hits us.

      Wouldn't an entire year without crops have a seriously fucked up effect on our food supply?

      People blamed other people for what happened. The usual suspects were, of course, sinners. But one unusual suspect was the late Benjamin Franklin. Some people believed that Franklin's experiments with lightning rods disrupted heat from the sun.


      But Ben Franklin would still figure into all this; as the man who would help provide an explanation. In 1920 American weather researcher William Humphreys read some writings by Ben Franklin. The statesman wrote about the cold summer of 1783. He blamed volcanic dust coming from Iceland for the drop in temperature. From this Humphreys was able to make the connection between summerless 1816 and the explosion of Mount Tambora.

      Holy shit, Ben's even cooler than I initially thought [keenspace.com]!
      • by Bartab (233395) on Sunday September 29, 2002 @03:23PM (#4354673)

        Wouldn't an entire year without crops have a seriously fucked up effect on our food supply?


        Define 'ours'. If you mean the US, and for only one year, then no. Prices would go up, but more because of a perceived threat than a real one (much like gas prices go up within hours of something happening in the middle east.) The US stockpiles, and let rots generally, a tremendous amount of food. Our exports and handouts would most certainly be affected.

        On the other hand, having a year where every single growing season failed across this entire nation would be .. well, difficult. There are winter crops, we'd just grow more of those if the the article is correct.
        • by schmaltz (70977) on Sunday September 29, 2002 @10:09PM (#4356420)
          If you mean the US, and for only one year, then no.

          Can you qualify that with actual information?

          Working in a previous life as a software development manager at a major produce distributor, I can tell you the pipeline from farm to stomach is measured in days. Some stocks have maybe a season's buffer; for instance frozen orange juice and wheat. Corn gets stored, but the amount and duration varies from producer to distributer to processor.

          The U.S. is more grasshopper than ant. Stockpiles are due to overproduction and market strategy rather than actual preparedness -they are not intentional stockpiles against production interruption. I expect there'd be widespread pandemonium, not just from 'perceived threat', but actual disruption of the entire supply chain that is feeding over 300,000,000 people in the U.S. alone.

          What stockpile we do have will probably move quickly. It's very unclear just what percent the U.S.'s "stockpiled" food store is -is it a fraction of the daily, weekly, monthly or annual need? Hard to tell. I imagine the military would get by for a time, but your typical city person, being at the far end of the longer chains, will have a hard time getting their hands on supplies.

      • If the usual suspects were "sinners", then Franklin also being a suspect really isn't all that unusual. He was not well liked by many church leaders, who already considered him heretical because of his tendency to spread inventions to the public that helped them evade "god's wrath". He was already disliked by some for the lightning rod because lightning was viewed as God's rightful wrath, and if it hits your house God must have had a good reason for doing so. Trying to evade the wrath of God via an invention was seen as excessive hubris. (That argument ended when it became apparent that churches also benefitted from having lightning rods installed. It looks bad to keep claiming lightning rods are sinful when churches that install them get destroyed from lightning much less often than churches that don't.)

        A little ice age would not destroy all farmable land. It would just destroy a large amount of it, leaving only the areas nearer to the equator as usable farmland. It would also reduce rainfall, as more of the earth's water is locked up in ice instead of circulating in the rain cycle (or whatever that cycle is called where it rains, runs off to the ocean, evaporates into clouds, rains again. etc)

        An full (not "little) ice age would certainly mess up most of Canada, except for thin strips of land right near the oceans (Vancouver wouldn't be covered, Nova Scotia wouldn't be covered, but everything in-between would be.) Further south, the last ice-ages had glaciers reaching down into northern Michigan and Minnesota, and the southernmost point being an elongated lobe covering most of Wisconsin. Where I live (Madison, WI) was just barely inside the southernmost extent of that lobe, and the effect on the geography was drastic. What was under the glacier got sanded down into smooth gently rolling terrain. What was not under the glacier still looks like it did before - rocky outcroppings, hills with cliffs, rugged and pretty terrain. The difference is drastic. Those things must have been very thick.

  • deleware (Score:3, Interesting)

    by echophase (601838) on Sunday September 29, 2002 @02:40PM (#4354455)
    "Valley Forge might not have been so cold, and Washington's crossing of the ice-bound Delaware River wouldn't have been so dramatic, if he had done it a century later--because our climate conditions have shifted since then, and today, the Delaware River rarely freezes."

    I would attribute that to the amount of chemicals being dumped into that system as well, I pity the idiots who put their bodies into that water.
  • by Devil's BSD (562630) on Sunday September 29, 2002 @02:44PM (#4354473) Homepage
    Here [no.net] are instructions on how to build an igloo, if anyone is interested.
    But if you ask me, I think global warming is the trend.
    • by red_shift (112821) on Sunday September 29, 2002 @03:23PM (#4354669)
      But if you ask me, I think global warming is the trend.

      Hey Sherlock, how about you take your foot out of your mouth and read the article? The issue is that global warming *is* melting the polar ice caps, which in turn could cause a local cooling effect in northern Europe -- to the point of ice age.

      That global warming doesn't make it hotter everywhere is old news, too. The BBC wrote about about this exact scenario (temps up --> ice melts --> atlantic currents change --> temps down...) years ago. It plays out with a rapid & general failure of agriculture across the British isles and western Scandanavia, due to massive increases in snowcover.

      (There is some debate about how the Gulf Stream moving south from the British Isles to Iberia would affect the weather in Spain, and Portugal. One camp thinks it would bring traditionally British rains; another argues the local heating effect of the Gulf Stream would rapidly create more arid/desert conditions. Either change devastates local agricultures however, destroying traditional grape & olive industries of the region.)
  • Ice Age? (Score:5, Funny)

    by grumpygrodyguy (603716) on Sunday September 29, 2002 @02:44PM (#4354476)
    Does anyone know how to build an igloo?

    I'm still living in my igloo, is Y2K over yet?
  • by guttentag (313541) on Sunday September 29, 2002 @02:45PM (#4354480) Journal
    Yeah, at the staff meeting on Thursday. They say we're looking at fire, brimstone, and a 60% chance of efficiency experts. Didn't you get that memo?
  • hmph! (Score:3, Funny)

    by digidave (259925) on Sunday September 29, 2002 @02:46PM (#4354484)
    Where are those global warming nutcases now? Methinks they'll be very quit until the ice age ends, then get all worked up about the ice sheet over Calgary thinning.
    • Re:hmph! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by snarfer (168723)
      Bonehead - this climate change is BECAUSE OF global warming. At least read the article before calling people "nutcases."
      • Re:hmph! (Score:2, Interesting)

        by gaj (1933)
        Um, no.

        If you had read the article, you would have learned that these climactic changes are common. They have happened many times in the past, and will most likely happen again in the future.

        The only thing mentioned about global warming in the article (other than the hype^h^h^h^hheadline) was the assertion (un-supported) that "It is reasonable to assume that greenhouse warming can exacerbate the possibility of precipitating large, abrupt, and regional or global climatic changes."

        Hardly a statement that the climate change is "BECAUSE OF" global warming.

        So, perhaps you should consider reading the article before calling people "bonhead", eh?

        • Re:hmph! (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Corgha (60478)
          "It is reasonable to assume that greenhouse warming can exacerbate the possibility of precipitating large, abrupt, and regional or global climatic changes."


          Hardly a statement that the climate change is "BECAUSE OF" global warming.


          "It is reasonable to assume that drinking alcohol can exacerbate the possibility of being involved in a serious automobile accident."

          Hardly a statement that I killed those two kids "BECAUSE OF" my drunk driving.

          If
          you had read the article, you would have learned that these climactic changes are common. They have happened many times in the past, and will most likely happen again in the future.


          If you read the newspapers, you will learn that automobile accidents are common. They have happened many times in the past, and will most likely happen again in the future.

          Guess I might as well get liquored up every time I get behind the wheel, since being drunk doesn't make it certain that I'll get into an accident, and not drinking does not make it certain that I won't get into an accident.

          Why is it that people are capable of dealing with probabilities and common sense when dealing with everyday life, but they insist that everything be 100% certain when dealing with climate change?
    • Re:hmph! (Score:5, Informative)

      by Waffle Iron (339739) on Sunday September 29, 2002 @03:00PM (#4354549)
      Where are those global warming nutcases now? Methinks they'll be very quit until the ice age ends, then get all worked up about the ice sheet over Calgary thinning.

      Read the damned article. The ice age may be caused by global warming via changes in ocean salinity.

      The climate is a chaotic nonlinear system. The results of twiddling its parameters may be counterintuitive or unpredictable. There never seems to be any shortage of armchair climatologists who can't comprehend this fact.

    • by Glytch (4881)
      Hey, anyone would get angry over the possibility of Calgary being set free.
  • History Lesson (Score:4, Interesting)

    by chainrust (610064) on Sunday September 29, 2002 @02:47PM (#4354488) Journal
    If the Ice Age was this long:
    iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii iiiiiii iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii(x400)

    The period from the end of the Ice Age till now is this long:
    i

    As you can tell, the non-Ice Age time is an aberration, not the norm.
    I have to write a paragraph to break the Lameness Filter caps rules.

    Please ignore following
    Important Stuff:
    Please try to keep posts on topic.
    Try to reply to other people comments instead of starting new threads.
    Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said.
    Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about.
    Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive comments might be moderated. (You can read everything, even moderated posts, by adjusting your threshold on the User Preferences Page) The last Ice Age to affect Britain ended

    • by Corgha (60478)
      As you can tell, the non-Ice Age time is an aberration, not the norm.

      If the night was this long:
      iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii iiiiiii iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii iiiiiiii.....(x400)

      The period from sunrise till now is this long
      i

      As you can tell, this "daylight" thing is an aberration, not the norm.
    • Re:History Lesson (Score:3, Informative)

      During the last 750 thousand years, the ice age cycle seems to last about 100,000 years with ~10-15% of that as warm interglacials (with 10-15 depending on how you define warm). We have been in an interglacial for about 8000 years, so empirically we are due for a switch in the next 5000 years or so, but we know that some interglacials have been shorter than 8000 years, so it's hard to say.

      Incidently from 750k years ago to more than 2.5M years ago, the ice age cycle was ~41 thousand years long. The full fledged ice age cycle is generally explained as being forced by changes in the Earth's orbit (due to perturbations of other planets). Two of the most well known such perturbatins have 41 and 100 thousand year periods.

      Of course he's not talking about an actual ice age, which would result in a global temperature dip ~15 F, but rather a locally important dip whose global impact would only be a degree or two. Such as the "Little Ice Age" that froze much of Europe circa 1700.
    • Bad sample size (Score:4, Insightful)

      by unicorn (8060) on Sunday September 29, 2002 @05:56PM (#4355375)
      It's ridiculous to draw conclusions from a sample of 2 data points.

      Especially when the second data point, has a beginning, but no fixed end yet. You really don't know anything about the length of the second time period.

      So in reality you're taking a single observable fact, the length of the historic ice age, and extrapolating wildly from that single point of data.

      Completely meaningless conclusions are all you can draw from a single point of data.
  • scary stuff (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 29, 2002 @02:49PM (#4354493)
    I saw something on the discovery channel the other night that mentioned the same thing, it was called ocean mysteries or something similar...

    Showed how if the planet got just a wee bit warmer, it would frell with the ocean's thermal regulation system and frell it up for a while...

    And yes, just a drop of a few degrees will really frell things up! Look at the florida citrus farmers - they are teetering on the edge now. they can't exactly move further south when they want - even a slight freeze, and their fruit is worthless...

    if rivers freeze at the wrong time, it could interfere with salmon spanning and the like, causing small cascades in the food web. Oh nature as whole will handle it, though we will suffer during the adaptation...

    After all, even one degree is the difference between freezing and melting point, no?
    • Re:scary stuff (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Dun Malg (230075)
      After all, even one degree is the difference between freezing and melting point, no?

      Go back to elementary physics class, doodyhead. "Freezing point" and "melting point" are the same damn thing, therefore NO degrees of difference. It's a heat transfer thing, man.
  • by ruebarb (114845) <colorache@@@hotmail...com> on Sunday September 29, 2002 @02:49PM (#4354495)
    This ain't Joe Blow, grad student and paranoid geek extraordinare...

    This is the head of the Woods Hole Oceanagraphic Institute...and he's basing his model on what he sees taking place in the oceans...this is fairly reliable scientific analysis...it can't be duplicated thru experimentation, but it's an interesting hypothesis nevertheless.

    If he's right, we are seriously fucking this planet up, ....in the end, it'll probably resort more in the deaths of millions, but fuck em...as long as the SUV on the heater works, right? It'll just kill off the poor and infirm and save us having to pay so many taxes for social programs..

    yes...that was sarcasm...you dig? not pretty...
    • by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Sunday September 29, 2002 @03:13PM (#4354619) Journal
      ... that it is us causing this?

      Almost everyone knows that the Earth's climate shifts over time, sometimes dramatically. What is still unclear (despite best efforts of people to firmly convince you one way or the other) is how much impact human activity has on the climate. Volcanic emissions dwarf global emissions due to human activities, for some gases and chemicals. The past has seen dramatic climate changes without humans having anything to do with it

      The question is not if we are bringing about an ice age or a warmer period (depending which scare of the day is going around). The question is if we are accelerating the change and by how much. If we bring an ice age about 100 years sooner than it would have occurred naturally, it hardly matters in the long run (but this generation might think otherwise). I believe in cutting back emissions and energy usage, cleaner factories and recycling and all that. But I am tired of the "we are killing the Earth" line.
      • by thelexx (237096) on Sunday September 29, 2002 @04:22PM (#4354949)
        "The past has seen dramatic climate changes without humans having anything to do with it."

        And that makes it ok for us to speed the process along? Short-term self-interest uber alles. "We can do whatever we want, let future generations fix it if there's a problem" sounds remarkably like "Fsck em all and let God sort them out."

        Also, these kinds of things make me 'think it':

        As Thousands of Salmon Die, Fight for River Erupts Again [nytimes.com]

        Much of the time we have no freaking clue what the real impact of our actions will be on the environment. A little introspection and scientific investigation seems entirely justified.

        • by DunbarTheInept (764) on Sunday September 29, 2002 @05:41PM (#4355282) Homepage

          Much of the time we have no freaking clue what the real impact of our actions will be on the environment.

          Yes - and the green lobby keeps forgetting to apply Occams' Razor to that ignorance. No - I take that back, most are too dumb to know what it means in the first place. And it's a crying shame, because unlike most who ridicule the greenies, I recognize that there really ARE environmental issues that are important, and SOME of what they say is valid - but only SOME of it. A lot is pure speculation disguised as science. Why oh why do I live in a world where the only real political choices are: support the lying extremists who make the environmental situation look worse than it is, or support the lying extremists who won't even acknowlege the obvious environmental problems that have already been proven?

      • by MikeFM (12491)
        Also what damage could we do to the system by trying to stop it's natural changes? If we adjust the system to hold things at our comfort level we could possibly break it for all time. What if the changes are needed to keep the system from just coming to a stop and sending us Red Planet. If it's a balancing act I certainly don't want to play god.

        We're human, we can live in space, on the Moon, in Antartica, in extreme desert wastelands, etc. We should adapt and not try to adapt nature to us. Might be a good time to start thinking of those futuristic domed cities from movies and indoor hydroponic gardens and so forth.
    • Social programs cannot stop global warming. [ishmael.org]

      You can throw more money each year at telling people to turn down the heating, but each year the human population increases closer to (or perhaps beyond) the carrying capacity of the planet. This is the real problem. I have perfect confidence in the ability of life on this planet to survive a 5-10 F drop in temperature (its been done before). The human race is no exception - we are a non-specialist species with an ability to live in many climates. The article seems more worried about a decline in economic prosperity in the developed world;

      "it could soon trigger a dramatic and abrupt cooling throughout the North Atlantic region--where, not incidentally, some 60 percent of the world's economy is based."

      Sounds like that would be something you are in favour of.

      P.S. saying that it must be right because it was written by the head of the WHOI is arguing to the person an not a valid scientific argument. There is no mention of peer review of this article, and it has a single author
    • What I want to know is what he left out of his extremely euro-american view of the world.

      If he is right, and such an occurence happened and plunged the northa atlantic into another ica age, would the equatorial areas become even more desertified than they are now because there would no longer be a stream of cold water coming down from the north? If that were to happen, not only would is fsck up the entire equatorial climate as well as the north american one, those changes would cause even more drastic shifts in the southern hemisphere's climate.
    • It makes sense, basically it's saying that global warming will screw up ocean currents. If the gulf stream current ever got reversed or went away, then the northern atlantic region would see drops in temperature similar to what he is saying. Don't count on much of the US cooling off except maybe northern Maine. Europe would be the most affected. For their latitude, it should be much colder there than it is were it not for the ocean currents.
  • Sure but (Score:5, Interesting)

    by smoondog (85133) on Sunday September 29, 2002 @02:49PM (#4354497)
    The title is slightly misleading. Under the scenario presented here, Global warming is still occuring. The point of the author, I believe, is to point out the likely occurance that raising the temperature of the earth will have a huge effect on the worlds climates. Global warming is more than just raising the temp 5-10 degrees uniformly, some areas will warm significantly, and others, due to shifting weather patterns, will likely cool.

    I think a more important problem than temperature is what effect global warming will have on precipitation. Precipitation levels change dramatically with climatic shifts and do much more to determine what happens to your environment. For example, dry and hot == desert, while wet and hot == tropical rain forest. Next time someone tell s you your tempurature is going to rise, ask, yes, but is it going to rain?

    BTW - the comment about glaciers also is a little misleading. The snow fall/snow melt cycle is more than just temperature -- it is also a function of precip. More snowfall with no temp change can cause glaciers to grow. The east coast (of the us) would need a significant increase in winter snowfall and a significan decrease of temp to cause glaciers anywhere.
  • by aepervius (535155) on Sunday September 29, 2002 @02:50PM (#4354502)
    Normally in scientific publication you avoid putting "very" and "not much" [smothing] on a scale. Why ? Because it doesn't allow to judge what the author meant by very and not much. But if you look the salty water/fresh water scheme below it doesn't say anything. So how are we to judge the saltiness change ?

    Even if it would have been less comprehensible for some, they would better have left on the scale concentration changes so that at least one can have a chance to jduge the changes.

    So what is very salty to fresh water ? A change from 180g.l- to 170g.l-1 ? Lower ? Higher ? So to summarize : nice article but not enough data to jump on the bandwagon.
  • Woohoo! (Score:2, Funny)

    This is actually good news, at least now we can hold another "Elfstedentocht" again here in the Netherlands. Then again, having -20 degrees celcius all year round might not be as fun as it seems, though it would rock for once to have said "Elfstedentocht" in July... ^_^

    Then again, I was expecting global warming which would place my town right next to the sea. I already had a burger stall planned out to make money on the German tourists... :(

  • You can buy a bunch of them here [yahoo.com].
  • by stratjakt (596332) on Sunday September 29, 2002 @02:53PM (#4354516) Journal
    I dunno, the article is full of 'what if' and 'could be' and 'possibly'. The theory itself seems to be an alternate consequence of the Global Warming theory, which in itself hasn't been conclusively proven or disproven.

    These scientists always seem to oversimplify the complex system that is the earths weather pattern.

    They talk as if its fact, but the best anyone can do is an educated guess. We don't understand the earth. If we could you wouldn't hear "60% chance of rain" on the nightly weather report.

    I wonder why they do it.

    From the about WHOI page:

    Funding
    The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is supported by a mix of grants from federal agencies including the National Science Foundation and the Office of Naval Research, private contributions, and endowment income.

    Oh, I guess people are less likely to contribute to the "Everything is A-OK" foundation.

    Not that I'm against them, they're better than other eco-groups which do nothing but spout speculative doom-and-gloom prophecies. At least these guys are scientists, not activists. The article warned of possible climate changes, not an end to all life as we know it.
    • These scientists always seem to oversimplify the complex system that is the earths weather pattern.

      Well, no. They don't "oversimplify", at least not to each other. Climate is understood through computer modeling. The models are as complex as modern technology and programming technique will allow. Now, if they are attempting to distill their model results into a form that people unfamiliar with the years of research behind them can understand, then they do by necessity skip a lot of details. Is this "oversimplifying"?

      The models show that the Earth may be on the verge of a rapid climatological shift to colder temperatures, as a result of greenhouse gases and their warming effect on the atmosphere. This may be counter-intuitive, but that doesn't make it false. Does it mean there's a guarantee that this is going to happen? No. Does that mean they're just guessing? Absolutely not. There is a danger. The consequences are too great to ignore it.

      They talk as if its fact, but the best anyone can do is an educated guess. We don't understand the earth. If we could you wouldn't hear "60% chance of rain" on the nightly weather report.

      You forgot to consider the fact that the spatial scales involved in rainfall are much smaller than the spatial coverage of a local news broadcast. So, if a weather system is moving through that is going to dump rain on 60% of your station's broadcast area, you say: "chance of rain 60%". Note, I have "oversimplified" things (darn scientists!!), but you get the idea.

      Oh, I guess people are less likely to contribute to the "Everything is A-OK" foundation.

      Do you seriously believe that they're just making up the results to acquire federal funding? Furthermore, do you seriously believe the government is more likely to fund research that indicates we cannot continue our current economic activity without grave consequences to the environment? Would we not expect the opposite, if we were to cynically (and ignorantly) guess that science funding was based on the answers, and not on the questions?
    • by cybercuzco (100904) on Sunday September 29, 2002 @04:40PM (#4355038) Homepage Journal
      They talk as if its fact, but the best anyone can do is an educated guess. We don't understand the earth. If we could you wouldn't hear "60% chance of rain" on the nightly weather report.

      This is a common misconception. Just because its hard to understand small parts of the system, does not mean that it is impossible to understand the whole system. For example, heisenbergs uncertainty principle states that you cannot know the exact position or velocity of a single subatomic particle. however, if that subatomic particle happens to be in my car, and im going down the freeway at 60 mph, and ive got my gps on, Ive got a pretty good idea not only of its position and velocity, but the position and velocity of its surrounding particles. Each particle is going to have lots of other velocities due to heat, collisions etc, but I know that at least one component is 60mph. My point is, its hard to predict what the weather is going to be like tomorrow, its relatively easy to predict what the weather trend is going to be, warming cooling, wetter, drier. Take el-nino for example. We know that when el-nino occurs, it will be a milder winter. We dont know that its going to snow on the 21st of december in buffalo, but we do know that when the winter is over, buffalo should have recieved less snow than normal.

  • Yawn.... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Yeah, right. These guys can't even forecast the weather a month from now! Heck, they can't even figure out where a hurricane is going to end up.
  • Why Frightened? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by RhettLivingston (544140) on Sunday September 29, 2002 @03:02PM (#4354566)

    All we're seeing here is our planet's self-correction mechanisms at work. There is likely nothing that we mere humans can do to permanently change the planet. It's design contains a complex system of checks and balances that we might actually be able to understand a fraction of in another 1000 years or so. We argue on the basis of the understanding of a few variables in a system with nearly infinite variables and it laughs at us.

    But why fright? I would love a 10 degree drop in St. Louis. Enough to cut the oppressive humid heat out of the summers and get the snow cold enough to stay snow instead of becoming mucky slush in the winter. It would be a refreshing break. And the glaciers of North America need another boost. They've been disappearing in places.

    The problem with us is that our cities are now too large and our roots too deep. We build expecting the rivers and coasts to stay where they are, not realizing that where they are is not where they were 50 years ago. Then we try to hold nature back. We confine rivers to courses that bottleneck their flood waters, we build dikes to keep the ocean at bay, we water to keep the deserts at bay... STOP!!! If nature wants to move a river or change a coast, let it! If people have the money to build there, let them! But don't get upset when their homes are swept away. They should know and accept the risk. We need to learn to build with the expectation of change... even welcoming it. Build so that change enhances.

    And all you environmentalists out there, stop whining. 150 years ago this nation was so smoggy the buildings had to be scrubbed of soot every year. We were in a little ice age just 200 years ago. Its the cycle of life. You think way more of us then nature does if you think we can actually put any real dent in it. Things will change. And over the long term, they'll get better (my dream is a society with enough clean energy that we can all afford to move to massive underground complexes and restore the surface to be one big park)(oh, that means NO SOLAR PANELS MUCKING UP THE HORIZON TOO). This planet can afford for us to make our mistakes and learn from them.

    • Re:Why Frightened? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by sekensirazu (581164)
      That mentality will drive our species to extinction. For proof, read Daniel Quinn's Ishmael. For more immediate information, read this [ishmael.org]. Some of your points are good, i.e. that there are checks and balances in place. However, in the last 10000 years alone humans have seized the role of proprietor on this planet and have single-handedly changed permanently these mechanisms. If you're as observant as your post suggests, you owe it to yourself to read the book I have listed above... it would clear up a lot of the confusion you must feel.
    • Re:Why Frightened? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mithras the prophet (579978) on Sunday September 29, 2002 @03:18PM (#4354640) Homepage Journal
      Planets do not have self-correction mechanisms. They are not alive.

      I do agree with your broader point that it is foolish to expect to "freeze" nature at a particular point. You're right - life will go on. Bacteria and the cockroaches will probably be just fine.

      However, it is downright idiotic to just throw up your hands and let anything go. The future is largely in our hands, and we can determine what kind of environment we will live in. (e.g. Our cities and waterways are less polluted now than 100 years ago because of a profound cultural shift and stringent regulations, not because they just "got better").

      You can choose to live in a world without old-growth forest or spotted owls or wild areas, a world with a Sahara desert covering half of Africa and matching deserts on each continent. I'd rather be a little more careful and preserve some of the pretty stuff for my grandkids.

      Just ask Venus and Mars whether they "self-corrected" their climate change...
      • You're wrong. Our planet can indeed be looked at as a complex living organism built around a stone. In fact, to understand its weather patterns, it MUST be looked at that way. The various bacterias, plankton, algaes, etc. have a tremendous moderating impact. And moderating doesn't always mean "calming" or "smoothing". Sometimes, a moderation involves swinging to an extreme for a while to achieve a balance again.

        I too like all of the things you spoke of. I spend two weeks camping in Yellowstone every year that are what keeps me going. But, our cities and waterways are not less polluted because of a cultural shift, they are less polluted because of a technological growth that will continue.

        I'm just saying we need a dose of reality. For example, every year they harp on the ozone levels in St. Louis being too high. We have all sorts of special restrictions in place trying to bring them down. But they are just starting to figure out that its not us at all. The forests to our west contain a tree that produces over 80% of our ozone in the summer. And the numbers of that tree are increasing. We can't win... that is unless we start paying people to save the environment by cutting down all of their treees. And what's wrong with not winning? We can always move! That's what they used to do when nature caused problems in one place. Rather than trying to change it, just move to another.

        We think we know it all, and really we know next to nothing. No amount of supercomputer power can ever accurately predict our effects on our planet or its effects on us because ever little thing here is a variable that must be taken into account.

        The only thing hurt in the long terms by these changes is our control freak egos.

        • Re:Why Frightened? (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Malcontent (40834)
          I hate to break it to you but the smog got cleaned because the environmentalists pushed for it. The republicans, the chamber of commerce and the rest of industrial complex fought it every step of the way like they always do but thank god they lost. If the world was full of people like you then the smog would be even worse.
    • All we're seeing here is our planet's self-correction mechanisms at work.

      Why would the planet have such a self-correcting mechanism? The earth doesn't care one way or the other whether or not it's hotter or colder. Even most species wouldn't care a whole bunch one way or the other, they'd just migrate.

      The problem is, of course, we'd care. Considering how much of a pain in the ass it would be to move NYC 10 miles inland.

      There is likely nothing that we mere humans can do to permanently change the planet. It's design contains a complex system of checks and balances

      Are you basing this on intuition? This is some shady stuff. I know that some creationists and like-minded people would claim the earth was "designed", but I'm not sure I should take that so seriously. In fact, there is evidence that we can change climate on a global scale. Not incontrovertible evidence, but some evidence nonetheless. I'm not aware of any evidence which suggests we can't. The most you could argue for, scientifically, is that we haven't. Unless, again, you're basing your arguments on intuition.

      Again speaking of temperature, from the earth's "point of view", the temperature is irrelevant, so there's no reason to have a correction mechanism. There's no selection pressure on planets that I'm aware of.

      When you're ready to talk science and not new-Age mumbo-jumbo, let us know.

  • pumping more greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere then....
  • Ah, survival is an excellent teacher ...
  • by waytoomuchcoffee (263275) on Sunday September 29, 2002 @03:07PM (#4354588)
    Earths mag field periodically reverses [nasa.gov] too, which could cause all sorts of mischief such as affecting climate [sciencenet.org.uk].

    Nature reported that the magnetic field off the southern tip of Africa has already flipped. Anomalies like these have already reduced the strength of the planet's magnetic field by about 10 percent.
  • Fallen Angels (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Dunedain (16942)

    This story has an interesting echo with Larry Niven's story "Fallen Angels, [baen.com]" available from the Baen Free Library [baen.com]. It's the story of what happens when the anti-scientist green-earthers get their way and ban greenhouse gasses. Ironic that WHOI seems to think greenhouse gasses may cause an ice age.

  • Igloo 101 (Score:5, Informative)

    by onyxruby (118189) <onyxruby@@@comcast...net> on Sunday September 29, 2002 @03:18PM (#4354638)
    Ah, the joys of Boy Scouts, where one can learn how to build an igloo in Minnesota Winter Survival training camp.


    You need a long saw / chainsaw and it helps to have an ice auger.


    Drill a hole in the ice (at least 8" deep) with your auger - this is your starting point.


    Use your long saw (they have speciality [fishingmn.com] ice saws for this used by ice fishermen) to cut away from the hole. Make your cuts parallel from each other. Cut longways before crossways. Make your blocks about 8 inches cubed.


    Once you have your first row cut, remove the ice with special tongs [kaleden.com] made for the purpose. Do not try to remove these by hand as you'll throw out your back and likely end up in your now open hole in the ice.


    Work parallel from your hole towards shore, do not work towards the center of the water, and the ice can thin dramatically and quickly (especially over rivers with strong currents).


    As a good safety guide, have someone else with you and a large ladder nearby if available.


    Once you have enough ice blocks, you will want to choose a place to put them. As heavy as the ice blocks are, it may be tempting to build the igloo right next to where you removed them. This is a bad idea as the finished igloo will be quite heavy and could easily crash through the ice. Be careful to build this over stable flat terrain.


    Arrange your first row of largest ice blocks in a circle. It doesn't need to big. The smaller it is inside, the better it will preserve warmth. Once you have the first row done, pack the crevices with snow. Put snow on top of the first row as a sort of mortar. Remember to put a hole for getting in and out!


    Add one layer at a time, adding in a small opening for crawling in and out of. The opening needs to in the form of an arch, and no taller or wider than about 1 1/2 feet at most. Just barely big enough to crawl through is good.


    As you build up, you can start to discover that you are bring the ice blocks towards the middle. This is the tricky part to get right. Have one person on the outside, and one in. The snow that you have been using a mortar can help or hinder here, depending on where you got it. Try to find stick snow


    Cap the igloo. For your first igloo, this can be pretty tricky. If you have built it tightly, it will lean in on itself and support itself. The top piece needs to be a pressure fit piece. For this, you'll want to start with a bigger piece and cut it down to size.


    You can also build an igloo out of snow, the process is much the same, but not all snow can be used for this.


    Finally, pack all the crevices with snow. This will help preserve warmth and keep the wind out. All things considered these things are actually pretty comfortable for winter camping.


    Remember, your just building a big Roman arch, get help, and you'll be fine. It helps to bring ice fishing gear to go ice fishing when your done:)

    • Re:Igloo 101 (Score:5, Informative)

      by nels_tomlinson (106413) on Sunday September 29, 2002 @05:42PM (#4355287) Homepage
      An igloo made of ice wouldn't be a good idea at all. Hardpacked snow has enough air trapped in it to make good insulation. You can easily bring the temperature inside an igloo or snowcave up above freezing. That melts the inner surface and forms a thin layer of ice, which cements everything together and makes a strong structure.

      You need to have snow which has been hardpacked by the wind. Up on the Bering and Arctic coasts there is plenty of that. If you live where there are trees, you will probably never be able to build one. You just won't get the right sort of snow. This is why the indians never used igloos; they lived inland, below the treeline. If you can shovel your snow, you can't build an igloo.

      You cut the blocks from a circular area, making a pit in the snow. If you can't cut your snow with a saw and lift the blocks in one piece, you have the wrong sort of snow. Make the center deeper, so that there are ledges around the sides. Cut the entrance tunnel down low, so that the ledges are above the top of it. That way the tunnel is like a p-trap, which keeps the warm air inside.

      I've lived in places where the locals used igloos many years ago (before my time), and I've seen igloos built by the old grandpas, to show the youngsters how it was done. I don't think that there are many people left who have ever built one. They were practical, temporary, travel shelters for folks on the Arctic coast. Someone who knows what he's doing can build a small igloo in an hour or so. Since the snow is fairly light, it can be done by one man.

  • by dougmc (70836) <dougmc+slashdot@frenzied.us> on Sunday September 29, 2002 @03:19PM (#4354643) Homepage
    They only make igloos when they're travelling. They use them like we'd use tents.

    If I recall correctly, most of the time they live in houses made of dirt and/or driftwood.

    (To be fair, all the ekimos I've known lived in houses much like the house I lived in. But then again, I only lived in Anchorage and never really got to know anybody who was living way out in the styx.)

    (ObPC: The Eskimos are only one of several types of natives living in Alaska, but they're the ones known for making igloos ...)

  • Two ways (Score:5, Funny)

    by mc6809e (214243) on Sunday September 29, 2002 @03:19PM (#4354645)
    So now we have two ways to prove that CO2 is affecting the climate of the Earth:

    The Earth's climate is getting warmer.

    The Earth's climate is getting cooler.

    Whichever we see, we know it was the fault of CO2, right?

    • Re:Two ways (Score:3, Funny)

      by Chris Johnson (580)
      It's very simple, really.

      (1) CO2 causes global warming. Suppose that's happening, then-

      (2) ice cap melting: Huge amounts of fresh water dump into the oceans. That IS happening- it's been observed. So-

      (3) fresh water disrupts the ocean's convection currents, as is being reported here. At which point-

      (4) Ice age. At least you get your ice cap back- at least in some places maybe! The energy in the system is still elevated, but now you have a dramatically different climate picture- and that is how you get 'warming' and 'cooling' at the same time. At which point-

      (5) "Whoa." The global climate goes completely chaotic, with the oceans no longer in a metastable state, and the energy from the warming producing wild variations in local weather patterns. It may stabilize at some point. It may not. Chaos means you can predict the general range of behavior, more or less, but you can't predict it literally.

      (6) Invest in emergency rescue technology for weather catastrophes. Mother Nature is about to kick our ASS, and we've nobody to blame but ourselves- and our bad luck to be doing what we do at the time we're doing it. Things would probably be getting nasty even in Greenpeace-eco-treehugger-world, but that's not the world we live in, and the difference means that things will get UGLY.

  • If only Compaq hadn't EOL'd the Vax, we might have easily laughed off a puny 10 degree drop in avg winter temperatures. Is it any wonder southern California is a desert? You youngin's might not be aware of it, but 50 years ago it was a tropical paradise. About that time, California universities and colleges started ordering various DEC computers, and the damage was soon irreversible.

    I kid you not, last year NASA published an article claiming that from the years 1976-1984, that side of the planet actually heated the sun, not the other way around.

    Our only chance, is to pull as many MicroVaxen as we can out of retirement/storage, and strategically place them throughout the North Atlantic. If we start soon, maybe we can end this ice age before it even begins!
  • by CodeWheeney (314094) <JimCassidy@nOSpaM.mail.com> on Sunday September 29, 2002 @03:26PM (#4354687) Homepage
    See, now you don't want those CPUs running so cool, do you? Gonna use my box as a foot warmer.
  • by bpd1069 (57573)
    The thing that gets me about such stories, especially from scientists is the simple conclusion: What they are saying is either true, or false. We have no idea if he is right or wrong. But it is a fact that it is true or false.

    Given the news in the headlines about such massively important earth changing risks that is reported in the press I believe we all tend to dismiss any doomsayers. We have become oversaturated by the news that comes almost monthly. I don't know if this is a fault of the media or of people's inability to accept the possibility of danger. In either case, the I believe the observation is true. People just don't care because they don't know what to believe anymore.

    So is this the Boy who cried wolf or are have we been warned warned of impending danger? Personally, I just don't know, but the implications are sure as hell worth some serious, multi-national investigation.
  • I found a story about this [discover.com] in a Discover magazine, in a friend's bathroom (of all places) a couple of weeks ago. A very interesting read.

    I remember thinking about how I always say in the winter time up here: it's sure not global *warming* us up any here.

    All I know is, if the winters here get worse than they already are, I will be heading for the equator.

    "the next cooling trend could drop average temperatures 5 degrees Fahrenheit over much of the United States and 10 degrees in the Northeast, northern Europe, and northern Asia"

    5 degrees fahrenheit is 15 degrees celcius to us canooks.. and an average temperature drop of 15 degrees celcius will definately have me packing my bags. An Average January temperature of -25 degrees is bad, but you learn to deal with it. (plug the car in!) -40 are particularily bad days (maybe I won't go to work today) but -40 as a new average is a serious concern (to me at least).

    I know, I know, the folks up in Tuktayuktuk are saying, "what a candy ass"
  • My obersvations (Score:5, Interesting)

    by shimmin (469139) on Sunday September 29, 2002 @03:38PM (#4354732) Journal
    The idea that a shutting-down of the Altantic Conveyor would lead to drastic cooling in Europe has been tossed around for the last twenty years or so (ever since computer simulations suggested that the patterns of ocean currents are not particularly stable, but are really merely metastable states in a rather easily perturbed dynamic system), and the idea that global warming might cause this (by dumping more fresh water onto the top of the ocean) has been around for the last 10-15 or so, but what's really interesting are the maps of ocean sanility over the past 40 years in the article.

    Note that from 1965-1990 (a period of a general mild warming trend globally, depending on whose graphs you look at), the North Atlantic went through a period of exceptional salinity, especially on the eastern seaboard. The article makes no attempt to comment on this.

    What it raises alarms based on are the last 10 years of data, in which the North Atlantic appears to be abnormally fresh. Unfortnately, we have no centuries-long data series for seawater salinity at depth, so what the article really means is "fresher than we've seen in the last 40 years," not "fresh is a manner that is historically significant."

    But we've been dumping carbon in the atmosphere all century long. If human activity is to blame for the recent freshness, how can we explain the previous salinity when the human activity in question has more or less continued unchecked throughout the whole time period?

    Personally, I think the truth is scarier than any environmental alarmism can paint. Articles like this would have you believe that

    The climate is a delicate balance that can change suddenly.

    Human activity can cause such changes.

    Such a change appears imminent.

    Therefore we should stop certain human activities to avoid the disaster.

    All fine and good, but the truth is more like

    The climate is a delicate balance that can change suddenly.

    Human activity can cause such changes.

    So can a whole lot of other stuff.

    Supercomputers and all, we still have minimal understanding of how the climate actually works.

    It's possible that major climatic change could happen within the decade as a result of human activity.

    But ceasing that activity might not make a difference.

    In fact, for all we know, ceasing that activity might at this point cause a climatic change that otherwise would have been avoided.

    Chaotic dynamics can make you want to go run to mommy sometimes.

    Now may be such a time.

  • Hoo boy... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Mr. Firewall (578517)

    In the 1970's we were told that our Evil, Polluting Ways were going to cause another Ice Age. Lots of people who can't (or won't) think for themselves believed it and Earth Day was born.

    Then in the 1980's we were told that our Evil Ways were going to incinerate the planet. Lots more people who refuse to think for themselves all of a sudden forgot that the planet was going to freeze and started calling upon our policymakers to take us back to a Stone Age culture to Save the Earth!

    So now they're going to frighten all of the Chicken Littles (or is it Little Birdbrained Chickens?) into reversing direction again.

    I think the doomsayers are having TOO MUCH FUN with all of this! It's turning into a game of "OK, what really stupid thing can we convince them into believing this time?"

    Reminds me of the email virus hoax [teleport.com] I once wrote. Some people will believe anything.

  • Look at the graphs near the bottom of the article showing progressive changes in salinity over time.

    Note how from 1960-1964 to 1970-1974, the waters go from neutral to very salty, then reverse the trend and go to fresh.

    I doubt anyone would seriously put forth the idea that mankind is responsible for the initial transition from fresh to salty.

    Now I'm not disputing his facts, I'm disputing the conclusion that we are responsible. The climate and data is so variable over time, we *know* this. And yet people are so quick to conclude that all of a sudden, the climate is being influenced by us even though temperatures are well within the "norms" of the last few hundred years.

    I use norms in quotes because there's so much variance that it's almost foolish to even use the term.

  • by yellowcat (561852) on Sunday September 29, 2002 @04:02PM (#4354856)
    I am working on a master's degree in Oceanography...and I have studied the subject a little bit.

    The global thermohaline circulation, better known as the great oceanic conveyor belt, transports warm, salty water from the equitorial pacific ocean to the far North Atlantic via the Agulhas Current (south Africa), North Brazil Current, and the Gulf Stream. In the southern hemisphere, water temperature at the surface is essentially 0 C at 60 S latitude. In the north pacific, the same is true at 60 N latitude. In the north Atlantic, at 60 N latitude, the water temperature west of Greenland is 0, and the water temperature east of Greenland is +10. This warm water is the reason that Norwegian fjords are ice free in winter, despite the fact that they are located far north of the arctic circle. It is also why Labrador, Canada and Iceland have wildly different climates, despite their being near the same latitude.

    During the boreal spring through fall, the (relatively) warm, salty water enters the Norwegian, Greenland, and Labrador seas. When winter sets in, winter storms cause the surface waters to cool (through mixing and heat flux into the atmosphere) until the water is of constant density to depths of 1000m or more. Further winter storms cool the surface waters even further, making the surface waters more dense than the deeper waters. Under these conditions, oceanic deep convection occurs. Deep convection is a rare thing--it only occurs in 6 places worldwide. Most of those are in the northern North Atlantic (Labrador Sea, Greenland Sea, Irminger Sea, Norwegian Sea). One is in the Mediterranean (Gulf of Lyons) and one is in Antarctica (Weddell Sea).

    Oceanic deep convection is a fragile thing. There are three conditions that must be met before it can occur: A closed, bounded circulation; weakly stratified or unstratified water to depth; and sudden density change (e.g. rapid cooling at the surface). If any of these conditions is absent, deep convection cannot occur. This is why global warming presents a problem to the conveyor belt--fresher water from melting glaciers, melting multi-year sea ice, and increased rain and snow sits on the surface, but even though it might be strongly cooled, the density will not change enough for this cooled water to sink to depth. If the surface mixed layer is only 50m deep, and the layer below the surface mixed layer is cooler saltier than the surface layer, then even if the surface layer is cooled to the same temperature as the next layer, *it will only sink to that same level*. That is, 50 m. Here, deep convection is not possible.

    If the conveyor belt stops, then we have a thermohaline catastrophe. In thermohaline catastrophe, then certainly the climate of western Europe would change dramatically. A lot of models are being run on this. They are trying to couple the atmosphere, ocean, and sea ice, and are running simulations such that 2x, 4x, and 8x the present level of CO2 is in the atmosphere. Thermohaline catastrophe occurs in a few of them, and doesn't occur in others. In some, the conveyor belt fails for a few years, but then starts up again as the a salinity gradient develops between the tropical oceans (where evaporation is high) and the subpolar oceans.

    There is one other weak link in the conveyor belt--the Agulhas current. The Agulhas winds down the east coast of South Africa before leaving the coast, heading south, and then bending back east again. Occasionally the current sheds warm, salty Indian Ocean eddies into the south Atlantic before bending back on itself. These eddies, called Agulhas rings, transport heat and salt from the tropical pacific into the Atlantic basin. A Dutch-South African experiment (MARES) tracked a few of these rings for a while. The Dutch team came to the conclusion that if the Agulhas ring-shedding breaks down, that there is a risk of thermohaline catastrophe.

    Here are some websites with a bit more info:
    *http://earth.agu.org/revgeophys/schmit01/n ode8.ht ml (American Geophysical Union)
    *http://kellia.nioz.nl/mare (MARES experiment)
    *http://www.marine.csiro.au/seminars/ sem-abs95/ASc hiller.html (Aussie coupled ocean-atmosphere-ice model)

    ----yellowcat >- ??
  • Bring it On.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by thumbtack (445103) <thumbtack.juno@com> on Sunday September 29, 2002 @04:09PM (#4354884)
    You can always put on more clothing, but you can only take off so much. Given a choice, I'll take colder over hotter anyday.
  • by TheSync (5291) on Sunday September 29, 2002 @04:11PM (#4354902) Journal
    There have been many rapid climate changes over the history of the earth, some minor ones even in the last thousand years. It could happen at any time.

    The point is that we must, as a species, grow our economy and technology globally to be ready to meet whatever climatic changes we encounter (regardless of cause, natural or because of us).

    In sub-saharan Africa, nearly 300,000 people will die this year because of famine, partially due to a drought. Depite a major drought in the US this year, no one will die, since the US has an advanced economy that can effectively move food from place to place.

    It is also far easier for an advanced economy to handle the sacrifices of environmentalism. The US has been able to do a lot to clean up rivers and ozone/sulphur in the air. But even the West is only slowly nearing the technological capacity to truly deal with CO2 pollution, and the rest of the world will lag.

    Economic and technological growth of developing countries are most hindered by their governments. Corruption, dictatorship, red tape, inflation, civil war, trade controls, and price controls are the big killers of economies. Appropriate economic policies are highly linked with economic growth and poverty reduction. Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan were very poor countries during the first half of the 20th Century, but have grown into nearly Westernized countries.

    BTW, IMF and World Bank loans are mechanisms for countries to funnel money to corrupt politicians and their friends, as well as provide incentives for countries to run high budget deficits which often leads to inflation. So yes, capitalists should dislike the IMF and WB. They may be a major reason why developing country growth has actually slowed down to near zero over the last two decades.
  • by meringuoid (568297) on Sunday September 29, 2002 @04:22PM (#4354944)
    ... Yes, seriously.

    Provided we're not looking at severe glaciation, just a mini-ice-age like we had a few centuries ago, Europe can probably take it. Most of us live in artificial urban environments anyway, and there's plenty of room to improve our insulation. A colder climate could devastate our agriculture, but Brussels already pays out billions of euros to people just for them _not_ to farm!

    And, to be honest, we're fantastically rich by global standards. Look for English and Germans to go buying places in Spain, Italy and north Africa if things start getting a little chilly at home...
  • by ostrich2 (128240) on Sunday September 29, 2002 @04:42PM (#4355049)
    When will people realize that "begs the question" means asking a question that has already been answered. It does not mean "presents the next logical question!" Think circular reasoning, not linear reasoning.
  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Sunday September 29, 2002 @04:44PM (#4355060)
    Yes, I believe it is called Winter.

    Sheesh, the things that mkae headlines nowadays.
  • by XaProf (553425) on Sunday September 29, 2002 @05:55PM (#4355359)

    Calm down, everybody.

    If you studied English in college you'd know that there was a "little ice age" in Europe from around the time Elizabeth I came to the throne (think Shakespeare) to about the time that George I came to the throne (think Defoe). (Disclaimer: both "thrones" are that of England -- I'm not that up on the history of other European countries. Sorry)

    It wasn't that big of a deal. People lived. Massive migrations didn't happen. Life adjusted -- in fact, you barely hear about it in writings of the period -- the most knowledge we have is from paintings, like this one. [cdc.gov]

    Besides, they're getting these conclusions from only 40 years of oceanic data? I'm not even an engineer or scientist and I understand that in massively complex natural systems fluctuations happen.

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