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Earth Space Science

No, We're Not Headed For a New Ice Age 473

Posted by Soulskill
from the snowboard-stocks-plummet dept.
purkinje writes "Unusual calm in the solar cycle — called a solar activity minimum — has sparked claims that the Sun will cool the Earth, leading us into a new ice age. While Europe did experience a Little Ice Age during a solar activity minimum three centuries ago, the connection between sunspots and climate is a lot more complicated, and it's unlikely this change in the Sun's activity will cool Earth down — or even affect the climate at all. Plus, any cooling that might come from this would be less than the global warming that's been going on. So don't pull out that parka yet; a new ice age seems more than unlikely."
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No, We're Not Headed For a New Ice Age

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 17, 2011 @11:47AM (#36476322)

    Unlikely or politically undesirable? Hmm...

  • Child of the 80s (Score:1, Insightful)

    by tripleevenfall (1990004) on Friday June 17, 2011 @11:58AM (#36476480)

    As a child of the 80s, this is what we were being told in schools growing up - not that the earth would die from global warming, but rather that the hole in the ozone layer and other environmental disasters would cause us to be plunged into a new ice age.

    I guess the term "climate change" is a lot more useful than "global warming", if a few decade late.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 17, 2011 @11:58AM (#36476484)
    Who needs science when we have your unedchumicated opinion that ya just spew out. Lets just all ignore the sun's effect on heating and lighting the planet when we have your computer models that can't predict the past, present, future, or weather next week. Thanks for clearing it all up for us.
  • by Mindcontrolled (1388007) on Friday June 17, 2011 @11:58AM (#36476486)
    Who is ignoring solar forcings? They are in basically every model. Straight out denial that ignores basically the whole literature on the subject is not "healthy skepticism"; by the way. Calling it such besmirches the name of every true skeptic out there.
  • by Daniel_is_Legnd (1447519) on Friday June 17, 2011 @11:59AM (#36476504)
    Exactly. Since there is ice on the poles of Earth, we are technically in an ice age. Individual periods of unusual cold or icing are called glacial periods.
  • by Dyinobal (1427207) on Friday June 17, 2011 @12:01PM (#36476530)
    I've always found people who go on and on about global warming extremely annoying. They talk about saving the earth and the environment but the bottom line is it's about saving the status quo. There have been times in earths history when it was much hotter than it is now and much colder. Humans will survive and so will the earth. If or when the last man bites the dirt the earth will still be here live in kicking unless we managed to do something really bad like strip away the atmosphere.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 17, 2011 @12:01PM (#36476536)

    Denialists are the only ones who have "everything figured out". Their adherence to their pet theory is immune to any criticism and when was the last time you saw error bars on a trend line from a denialist?

    But if you look at the IPCC reports, you'll find that the climate science IS saying "We haven't figured it all out", but since you STILL insist that this isn't the case, rather proves that your statement is, in bald fact, false.

    NOTE: They DO say "we've figured out enough to know what we ought to do". That's not "we know it all" by any stretch. A barking dog snarling at you is evidence that you should retreat backwards, but it doesn't mean you know all about canine psychology.

  • They are extremely pro AWG. They may be right but they only show one side of the picture. There is no room for debate in their eyes. I wonder if they are heavy invested in carbon dioxide credits.
  • by bunratty (545641) on Friday June 17, 2011 @12:07PM (#36476604)
    Science never has everything figured out. You should be skeptical of science. But most arguments I've seen against global warming have nothing to do with healthy skepticism; they generally use made up evidence or faulty reasoning. In any case, we will need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions no matter what, because fossil fuels will not last forever. The only question is how quickly should we reduce them. Personally, I think it makes sense to reduce fossil fuel now use simply to reduce demand and avoid energy prices spiraling out of control, and to have sources of energy that do not depend on stability in the Middle East.
  • by jo_ham (604554) <joham999@noSPaM.gmail.com> on Friday June 17, 2011 @12:07PM (#36476620)

    Radiative forcing is one of the first things to go into climate models; nowhere does it say 'ignore the huge nuclear furnace' since it's pretty much.... where the vast bulk of the energy comes from. To suggest that articles like this are what drive skeptics is just not really accurate. Skeptics are going to be doubting the results for any number of specific reasons, not just due to solar cycles.

  • by Anubis IV (1279820) on Friday June 17, 2011 @12:12PM (#36476672)

    In the summary (emphasis mine):

    ...has sparked claims that the Sun will cool the Earth...

    The Sun does not cool the Earth, nor did anyone claim that such was a possibility. It may simply warm it less, should the recent concerns pan out, but cooling it is out of the question. It's a giant ball of fire in the sky, not a giant A/C unit in the sky.

  • by Mindcontrolled (1388007) on Friday June 17, 2011 @12:12PM (#36476676)
    Try lying harder? When exactly was the ozone hole made to be a reason for a cooling spell? The concern about stratospheric ozone was always about increased UV and thereby increased cancer risk. We happened to do something about it that worked by the way. Care to provide any source for your claims?
  • by Mage66 (732291) on Friday June 17, 2011 @12:13PM (#36476688)

    Just so. How do we know that any set of conditions in the climate is optimal?

    Maybe optimal is a degree warmer. Maybe not.

    Squandering trillions of dollars in wealth and productivity just to maintain the status quo seems silly.

    I like Bjorn Lomborg's approach which is to spend that money on clean water, medical care, and feeding the hungry instead. As well as simply moving people out of areas that might be impacted.

    We can save more lives, and vastly improve the quality of lots of poor that way, rather than chasing a fraction of a degree of temperature rise.

  • by blueg3 (192743) on Friday June 17, 2011 @12:14PM (#36476720)

    Close. Discover is pro-science. It's kind of their schtick.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 17, 2011 @12:16PM (#36476752)

    Not quite. The "press" learned that ice-ages were periodical from the discovery in the late 70s, and then started publishing crap like "Oh noes! We're heading for an ice-age!", despite being unequivocally denied by everyone in the field. So what we have today it people like you continuing the myth that it was valid information back then. It wasn't, so stop it!

    Ozone is a different matter, it's is a real problem, and the govts lead by Thatcher did something about the cause. We now have to wait several decades for the damage to be repaired. Go and ask someone down-under about their massive hole and skin-cancer problem.

  • by Mindcontrolled (1388007) on Friday June 17, 2011 @12:17PM (#36476772)
    So you have no data at all, you are just lying. And then you demand an apology. Sure. By the way, the ad hominem fallacy means attacking the messenger regardless of his message to make the content of said message less believable. That is somewhat different from calling a liar a liar, now is it?
  • Re:Duh! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jellomizer (103300) on Friday June 17, 2011 @12:19PM (#36476802)

    There are very few Scientific fact, but a lot of well supported theories. I kinda wish that scientist wouldn't just ignore crazy theories (Leaving people to think, that they are just making it up) that are popular but come up with tests that can prove or disprove them. And show them the results.

    For global warming don't just show us a graph that shows a line shooting up. When we come up with different things show it off, prove to us that is wrong. Science had been lucky in the past, the average Joe took everything face value. But with rapid media, and some big mistakes in "Science" people are more distrusting. It is time for the Science Institution to change and regain peoples trust again.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 17, 2011 @12:21PM (#36476864)

    Red on the inside (as in communist red for those of you who don't know your history which is most liberals).

    The notion of AGW is nothing more than an attempt to control all aspects of everyone's lives; the ultimate boogey man to mandate top down regulation of everything you do. There is no evidence for man made global warming. To ignore the sun's immense impact on earth's climate and then suggest that CO2 is a pollutant shows your amazing lacking of common sense let alone critical thinking.

  • Re:Duh! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by LWATCDR (28044) on Friday June 17, 2011 @12:23PM (#36476894) Homepage Journal

    Why does this always have to fall into politics.Frankly the global warming faithful are getting annoying. Before anyone has a freaking stroke let me lay out the facts as I seem them.
    1. CO2 is a greenhouse gas.
    2. Over all we have been seeing a warming trend.
    Conclusion: even if the warming trend is not caused solely by the increase in CO2 gases reducing emissions is a good thing.
    There is is minus the politics and religion. I would even bet that CO2 is the primary cause of the warming trend.
    It is really that simple.
    Now for the true believers that are blaming global warming for everything from Hurricane Katrina to it snowing in Iran... Please learn the difference between climate and weather.

    This article sounds as bad in it's way as crap from FOX news does the other way.
    Here is nice little bow for yourself.
    "1) Claims of an imminent global ice age are at best exaggerated."
    Probably but that is opinion and not science. But then I have seen heard some pretty stupid things from the Church of Global Warming.
    "2) The link of global cooling to an extended solar magnetic minimum is tenuous, and almost certainly needs something else to force it to occur (like lots of volcanoes)," Gee that sounds just like what the anti climate change people are saying. Yet when there are fewer sun spots the earths climate does cool. "This is from the very same piece"
    "Having said all that, the sunspot cycle may have a very small effect on climate. You might think that since the spots are cooler than the solar surface we’d see a drop in light from the Sun and a corresponding cooling of the Earth during solar max. However, it’s actually the opposite! Sunspots are surrounded by a rim called faculae, and in this region the temperatures are actually higher than the average solar surface. This more than compensates for the cooler area of the spot; sunspots are about 1% dimmer than the solar surface, but faculae are 1.1 to 1.5% brighter. On top of that, faculae emit more UV than the solar surface does, and that wavelength of light is preferentially absorbed by the Earth’s atmosphere, increasing the efficiency of heating.
    So, bizarrely, sunspots tend to warm the Earth. That jibes with the idea of a cooling trend during solar minimum; fewer spots means fewer faculae, so the Sun emits less Earth-warming radiation.
    But when you look at the numbers, again, it’s not so simple. The effect from faculae is very small, not enough to significantly change the Earth’s temperature on their own."
    Except that little ice age did seem happen during that time. That is a fact. They may be unrelated but a change in the sun and the climate being unrelated seems like a very bad bet in my book.
    You see the conclusion I find odd. We have seeing a MASSIVE decrease in sunspot activity. We have never seen such an change in modern times. I really question just strongly he is pushing that conclusion. We are also seeing other changes in the suns magnetosphere as well. Since we have never seen such such a thing when we could study it as well I think he is making some massive leaps and throwing in "probables" here and there.
    This actually seems like a knee jerk reaction. It is probably a reasonable fear that some people will say "well lets burn more coal to stop this" but that doesn't stop it from being bad science. I think we are going to learn a not about the Sun in the next few years and I wouldn't be so sure about the outcome as this author seems to be.
    I wouldn't panic but then I never do.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 17, 2011 @12:23PM (#36476906)

    As my wife likes to say to folks who say "Global Warming is a Hoax!" and go off a parrot some opinion they've heard from the pundits, why not clean up the air (we've been having smog warnings for weeks now)? Hoax or not, the things that will stop Global Warming will also clean up the air, why can't we do that? They usually agree.

    Now before someone posts something about my parroting comment, unless you analyzed the scientific data yourself, you are parroting another's opinion too - granted, parroting a climate scientist's opinion is a bit more valid than a pundit's opinion who is nothing more than a college dropout [wikipedia.org], but you're still regurgitating another's opinion.

  • by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris@@@beau...org> on Friday June 17, 2011 @12:26PM (#36476958)

    Yup. But /. had to counter that bad story earlier that might have caused a few of the faithful to stray from the One True Religion and rags like Discover can be relied upon to provide rebuttal to any evidence that might bring AGW into question. Real scientists studying the the Sun come out with a "This is unusual, we didn't expect to see this. This might have consequences so we are putting out a press release so others can come look at our data." type report and a few days later we are reassured by purkinje that "any cooling that might come from this would be less than the global warming that's been going on."

    We aren't told who purkinj is though, what his degree is in, who is financing him, etc. How many carbon credits or solar projects he is invested in, nothin. But we can trust him because he is Faithful. Also note that this guy seems to have a straight pipe to the submission queue and never participates in the comments.

    Meanwhile the IPCC is in yet another fresh scandal where it is learned that they allowed a Greanpeace activist to be the lead author on a section of their report on alternative energy and repackage his own earlier work with zero peer review or oversight.

  • by coldfarnorth (799174) on Friday June 17, 2011 @12:27PM (#36476984)

    My data [nasa.gov] indicates that your claim that "we are in a cooling period" is wrong. It indicates exactly the opposite. If you feel that my data is not from a trustworthy source, please feel free to explain why.

    "No one will trust my data so I'm not going to bother giving you any" is not an acceptable argument. You should be able to support your positions, and fortunately, you have made a claim for which plenty of data exists. Unfortunately, a great deal of it is contrary to your statement.

  • Re:Duh! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Grygus (1143095) on Friday June 17, 2011 @12:36PM (#36477144)

    I kinda wish that scientist wouldn't just ignore crazy theories (Leaving people to think, that they are just making it up) that are popular but come up with tests that can prove or disprove them. And show them the results.

    For global warming don't just show us a graph that shows a line shooting up. When we come up with different things show it off, prove to us that is wrong. Science had been lucky in the past, the average Joe took everything face value. But with rapid media, and some big mistakes in "Science" people are more distrusting. It is time for the Science Institution to change and regain peoples trust again.

    What? No. I don't think you have a good grasp of how science works.

    Scientists should be doing science. If your theory isn't falsifiable then it isn't science and therefore not their field at all. If your theory is falsifiable but does not match the current data, then it may have already been disproved and there is no need to waste time on it unless you can show that the data is wrong somehow. In the instance of global warming, scientists have disproved a few crazy theories and they have shown the data, but crackpots do not listen to evidence; that's why they are crackpots in the first place. The fact that you either haven't sought out or accepted the available proof shows that you're not really much interested in the truth yourself. This is not the fault of scientists; they've upheld their half of the bargain. You have to be open to the evidence.

    As for science making mistakes: that's an important part of the process. Science is all about trying things, making mistakes and correcting them. It's a slow progress toward the real truth, not a pre-determined truth to which facts are shaped to fit. Admitted mistakes aren't a sign that science isn't working; quite the opposite! That's how you know that science is trustworthy. Anyone who claims to have all the answers and never be wrong is the one you should be distrusting. Whether people recognize this is not the fault of, nor a problem for, scientists; willfully ignorant people will remain so, by definition, and it is entirely their own fault.

  • by tbannist (230135) on Friday June 17, 2011 @12:41PM (#36477258)

    I bet there was a guy just like you a hundred years ago who'd proclaim "We are not going to stop using horses or buggies. Period." The U.S. is paralyzed by greed and stupidity, so maybe you won't change until you have to but that will be your loss. The United States used to be a backwards former colony of little import, and many Americans seem intent on return to those "glory days". Frankly, I'm pretty sure the world will run out of oil and coal before the atmosphere could "turn toxic" (at least from CO2 emissions). Diseases, pest, and massive agricultural failures are the biggest threats associated with global warming.

  • by Mage66 (732291) on Friday June 17, 2011 @12:58PM (#36477538)

    Not going to happen. We've seen about a tenth of a degree warming in the first half of the 20th Century (now reversed), that occurred LONG before the rise of automobiles and factories adding CO2 to the atmosphere.

    Every prediction I've read about how much temperature change that the draconian measures would reverse are similarly in fractions of a degree over a period of a century.

    Human activity just isn't affecting the climate all that greatly.

    Any predictions of climate change on the level of several degrees is just scare-mongering.

    It's not supportable based on what we've observed thus far. In fact atmospheric CO2 concentrations have increased by about 8 percent or so since the mid-1990s. According to climate alarmists, this should have caused measurable global warming. But none has been observed.

    Human activity may indeed affect global climate, but it's like pouring a thimbleful of dye into a swimming pool.

  • That's pretty good, disproving a theory that is going to take another normal solar cycle to prove or disprove. I guess they have a time machine or something.
  • by jo_ham (604554) <joham999@noSPaM.gmail.com> on Friday June 17, 2011 @01:13PM (#36477758)

    It was better the first time before the "fixing".

    I am a scientist. You should be sceptical of all science - that's how science *works*.

    However, as the GP points out, 'being sceptical' does not mean simply disagreeing and arguing your point with made up evidence or ignorance of the facts which is almost always the case with politically sensitive science issues (climate change, stem cell research, nuclear energy etc).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 17, 2011 @01:24PM (#36477912)

    Just admit you don't have everything figured out.

    For crying out loud. Look, science is the process of figuring things out. If science had already figured everything out, then there wouldn't be any scientists. They would have published the "Big Book of Everything" a long time ago, and now they'd all be out of work.

    But, while scientists don't know everything, they tend to have a much better understanding of the subjects they've spent their careers studying than those who have not spent their careers studying those things. So when some random Joe comes along and says "hey, there's a giant fireball in the sky, you guys haven't even considered that, so it must be the cause of all warming", scientists tend to roll their eyes and say, "gee, really, did you actually think we hadn't ever noticed that thing up there?"

  • Re:Duh! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kenboldt (1071456) on Friday June 17, 2011 @01:24PM (#36477926) Homepage

    In the instance of global warming, scientists have disproved a few crazy theories and they have shown the data, but crackpots do not listen to evidence; that's why they are crackpots in the first place. The fact that you either haven't sought out or accepted the available proof shows that you're not really much interested in the truth yourself. This is not the fault of scientists; they've upheld their half of the bargain. You have to be open to the evidence.

    Be careful to not confuse computer model output with data. The two are not the same thing. Also don't forget about a fundamental pillar of the scientific method, the null hypothesis.

  • by jd (1658) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <kapimi>> on Friday June 17, 2011 @01:37PM (#36478096) Homepage Journal

    Answer the point or bugger off, choice is yours. Arguing over whether other people misuse syntax is of no interest to me.

  • by cirby (2599) on Friday June 17, 2011 @02:47PM (#36478926)

    One small problem, though - the NOAA numbers for that time period came from a truncated data set.

    For some unstated reason, NOAA decided that the previous number of stations was too large, and decided to stop using the full set. So they dropped a lot of stations. Not the ones in cities, or that had problems with siting (like next to air conditioning units), but a whole bunch of rural ones. Which had the effect of making the overall temperature seem to increase. For exactly the time period when other measurements showed a flat to decreasing graph.

    People who looked at individual rural stations can't seem to find the "hotter" trend - and those are exactly the places you'd expect to find it.

    The NOAA record seems to be more of a study of "how much has the Urban Heat Index measurement changed over the last couple of decades" than any serious accurate global heat measurement. Look at the http://www.surfacestations.org/ [surfacestations.org] website for examples of just how bad current ground instrument siting is. When you see an "official" thermometer station sitting in the middle of a recently-installed asphalt parking lot, you know it's going to be a bit warm when compared to the same one that's been in a grass field for 100 years...

  • by thoromyr (673646) on Friday June 17, 2011 @04:14PM (#36479952)

    He didn't assume "that the irradiance is absorbed linearly as a black body by the earth", you did. He pointed out very clearly that variations in solar irradiance simply don't vary as much as people seem to believe.

    In fact, when you mention "atmospheric composition, oceanic current flow, heat from the core, drag from the moon and sun" all you manage is to explicitly mention other factors that have greater variation than solar irradiance does.

    And yet you were modded informative? GP was insightful in pointing out people don't understand the variability in the sun's output is negligible compared to other factors, demonstrates that the temperature changes experienced *must* be caused by other variable factors butt is modded 'interesting'. Sheesh.

    What I'm really griping about is you added nothing to the discussion. You say "People are also bad at understanding complex effects, as your post shows" but all you really demonstrate is that your reading comprehension is fairly limited. And then get modded informative. Sheesh

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