Global Warming? “Is A New Ice Age Underway” Asks Science & Technology Magazine

family:Arial;”>Is a New Ice Age Under Way?

by Laurence Hecht
November 2000

“Watch out, Al Gore. The glaciers will get you!” With that appended note, my friend, retired field geologist Jack Sauers, forwarded to me a report that should have been a lead item in every newspaper in the world. It was the news that the best-measured glacier in North America, the Nisqually on Mount Rainier, has been growing since 1931.

The significance of the fact, immediately grasped by any competent climatologist, is that glacial advance is an early warning sign of Northern Hemisphere chilling of the sort that can bring on an Ice Age. The last Little Ice Age continued from about 1400 to 1850. It was followed by a period of slight warming. There are a growing number of signs that we may be descending into another Little Ice Age—all the mountains of “global warming” propaganda aside.

Our current understanding of the long-term climate cycles shows that for the past 800,000 years, periods of approximately 100,000 years’ duration, called Ice Ages, have been interrupted by periods of approximately 10,000 years, known as Interglacials. (We are now about 10,500 years into the present Interglacial.)

What Causes Ice Ages
These cycles are not mere statistical correlations, as some Wall Street prognosticator working at the modern PC version of a ouija board might spin out. They are determined, with great scientific precision, to correlate with long-term, cyclical changes in the Earth’s orbital relationship to the Sun. Three fundamental orbital relationships are involved, each of which contributes to the amount of sunlight received in high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. When these cycles combine to reduce the incoming solar radiation (insolation) during summer months, over a number of years, the ice sheets which permanently cover Greenland, parts of Alaska, northern Canada, Scandinavia, and elsewhere, begin to advance.

At a certain point, the growth process becomes self-feeding, partly because the high reflectivity of ice and snow reduces the local temperature, partly for reasons that are not fully understood. The glaciers thicken and expand until they become continental ice sheets, one to two miles thick, creeping ever southward. Geological evidence shows that in the last Ice Age, the southern boundary of the continental ice sheet, known as a terminal moraine, stretched down the center of Long Island, through New York City, across New Jersey and Pennsylvania to Southern Illinois and Missouri, then up the Plains States through Montana and Washington State. All of this real estate was buried under one to two miles of ice.

Geologically and climatologically speaking, we are due for another such glacial advance. It might not happen in our lifetimes, but radical shifts in the climate of northern regions can take place suddenly, and in some places may already be taking place.

Some of the indicators:

• Since 1980, there has been an advance of more than 55% of the 625 mountain glaciers under observation by the World Glacier Monitoring group in Zurich. (From 1926 to 1960, some 70-95% of these glaciers were in retreat.)

• A comparison of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 1965 and 1990 Plant Hardiness Zone Maps, shows a southward change of one zone, or 10°F, between 1965 and 1990.

• Careful measurements of the oxygen isotope ratios in German oaks, which are rigorously calibrated to temperature data, show a 1°C temperature decline from 1350 to 1800 (the lowpoint of the Little Ice Age). Temperature thereafter increased by 1°C from 1800 to 1930, and has been declining since then.

• From weather stations in the Alps, and in the Nordic countries, we find the temperature decline since 1930 is also 1°C.

• Satellite measurements have shown growth in the height and breadth of the huge Greenland ice sheet, the largest in the Northern Hemisphere

 

On Nisqually
That brings us to the Nisqually glacier, up on the 14,410-foot Mount Rainier, near Tacoma, Wash. Just 85 feet shy of Mount Whitney, the highest point in the lower 48 states, Mount Rainier has 26 glaciers, and is the largest single peak system in the United States.

In 1931, fearful that the receding glacier would provide insufficient runoff for their newly completed hydroelectric facility, Tacoma City Light began careful measurements of the glacier. Since the mid-1800s, the glacier had receded about 1 kilometer. Annual to semi-annual measurements, continued by the U.S. Geological Survey and private contractors for the National Park Service, provide the longest continuous series of glacier measurements in North America.

The details are described in a report by government specialists, which appeared in the September 2000 issue of Washington Geology:

“The greatest thickening during the period of measurement occurred between 1931 and 1945, when the glacier thickened by about 50% near 2,800 meters of altitude. This and subsequent thickenings during the mid-1970s to mid-1980s produced waves that advanced its terminus. Glacier thinning occured during intervening periods. Between 1994 and 1997, the glacier thickened by 17 meters at 2,800-m altitude, indicating probable glacier advance during the first decade of the 21st century.”

That’s the story from Mount Rainier. Retired geologist Sauers, who has been observing conditions in the Cascade Mountains of western Washington for a lifetime, says “I’m preparing for an Ice Age.” Perhaps we all should.

Global Warming? News Week Magazine Warns “Global Cooling Will Lead To Famine”

The Cooling World

By Peter Gwynne
28 April 1975

There are ominous signs that the Earth’s weather patterns have begun to change dramatically and that these changes may portend a drastic decline in food production — with serious political implications for just about every nation on Earth. The drop in food output could begin quite soon, perhaps only 10 years from now. The regions destined to feel its impact are the great wheat-producing lands of Canada and the U.S.S.R. in the North, along with a number of marginally self-sufficient tropical areas — parts of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indochina and Indonesia — where the growing season is dependent upon the rains brought by the monsoon.

The evidence in support of these predictions has now begun to accumulate so massively that meteorologists are hard-pressed to keep up with it. In England, farmers have seen their growing season decline by about two weeks since 1950, with a resultant overall loss in grain production estimated at up to 100,000 tons annually.

During the same time, the average temperature around the equator has risen by a fraction of a degree — a fraction that in some areas can mean drought and desolation. Last April, in the most devastating outbreak of tornadoes ever recorded, 148 twisters killed more than 300 people and caused half a billion dollars’ worth of damage in 13 U.S. states.

To scientists, these seemingly disparate incidents represent the advance signs of fundamental changes in the world’s weather. Meteorologists disagree about the cause and extent of the trend, as well as over its specific impact on local weather conditions. But they are almost unanimous in the view that the trend will reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century. If the climatic change is as profound as some of the pessimists fear, the resulting famines could be catastrophic.

“A major climatic change would force economic and social adjustments on a worldwide scale,” warns a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences, “because the global patterns of food production and population that have evolved are implicitly dependent on the climate of the present century.”

A survey completed last year by Dr. Murray Mitchell of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reveals a drop of half a degree in average ground temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere between 1945 and 1968. According to George Kukla of Columbia University, satellite photos indicated a sudden, large increase in Northern Hemisphere snow cover in the winter of 1971-72. And a study released last month by two NOAA scientists notes that the amount of sunshine reaching the ground in the continental U.S. diminished by 1.3% between 1964 and 1972.

To the layman, the relatively small changes in temperature and sunshine can be highly misleading. Reid Bryson of the University of Wisconsin points out that the Earth’s average temperature during the great Ice Ages was only about seven degrees lower than during its warmest eras — and that the present decline has taken the planet about a sixth of the way toward the Ice Age average.

Others regard the cooling as a reversion to the “little ice age” conditions that brought bitter winters to much of Europe and northern America between 1600 and 1900 — years when the Thames used to freeze so solidly that Londoners roasted oxen on the ice and when iceboats sailed the Hudson River almost as far south as New York City.

Just what causes the onset of major and minor ice ages remains a mystery. “Our knowledge of the mechanisms of climatic change is at least as fragmentary as our data,” concedes the National Academy of Sciences report. “Not only are the basic scientific questions largely unanswered, but in many cases we do not yet know enough to pose the key questions.”

Meteorologists think that they can forecast the short-term results of the return to the norm of the last century. They begin by noting the slight drop in overall temperature that produces large numbers of pressure centers in the upper atmosphere. These break up the smooth flow of westerly winds over temperate areas. The stagnant air produced in this way causes an increase in extremes of local weather such as droughts, floods, extended dry spells, long freezes, delayed monsoons and even local temperature increases — all of which have a direct impact on food supplies.

“The world’s food-producing system,” warns Dr. James D. McQuigg of NOAA’s Center for Climatic and Environmental Assessment, “is much more sensitive to the weather variable than it was even five years ago.”

Furthermore, the growth of world population and creation of new national boundaries make it impossible for starving peoples to migrate from their devastated fields, as they did during past famines.

Climatologists are pessimistic that political leaders will take any positive action to compensate for the climatic change, or even to allay its effects.

They concede that some of the more spectacular solutions proposed, such as melting the Arctic ice cap by covering it with black soot or diverting arctic rivers, might create problems far greater than those they solve. But the scientists see few signs that government leaders anywhere are even prepared to take the simple measures of stockpiling food or of introducing the variables of climatic uncertainty into economic projections of future food supplies. The longer the planners delay, the more difficult will they find it to cope with climatic change once the results become grim reality.

April 28, 1975 issue of Newsweek :

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