Global Cooling? A new look at climate change

Global warming is a topic that is highly divisive, controversial, and in the fore front of many peoples’ minds. While I do not doubt that indeed the Earth is getting warmer, the argument that green house gases and human disregard is the leading cause of it has never sat well with me. As a result, I refuse(d) to believe the hype. It did not help that the only people I see harping about it as a problem were politicians, left-wing groups, and international political organizations – none of which I have much faith in. It is also troubling when MIT climate professors and other scientists and climatologists attempt to debunk human caused warming theories, only to be ridiculed or marginalized. I tell you, I am more apt to believe the science.

All that being said, there are scientists that can make an argument for either side of the debate. However, the most convincing arguments almost always come from those who disagree with popular perception in this regard. Now let it be clear, I do not doubt that the globe is warming. In the study that I am using as a premise for this article, they mention that in the past Century the globe has warmed .6 degrees Celsius, so something probably around 1.5 to 2 degrees farenheit. I am not even arguing that human factors did not play any role at all. What I am arguing, and it is an argument that I am more and more confident about daily, is that Humans are not the primary cause of global warming. I am convinced that warming and cooling are natural cycles that have occurred over the history of time and will continue regardless of anything humans do. In the Financial Times article that is my reference, Read the Sunspots, they give a great quote: “Climate stability has never been a feature of planet Earth. The only constant about climate is change; it changes continually and, at times, quite rapidly.” It is a great reminder that the Earth’s climate has never been stable, an excellent point. They continue and add:


Many times in the past, temperatures were far higher than today, and occasionally, temperatures were colder. As recently as 6,000 years ago, it was about 3C warmer than now. Ten thousand years ago, while the world was coming out of the thou-sand-year-long “Younger Dryas” cold episode, temperatures rose as much as 6C in a decade — 100 times faster than the past century’s 0.6C warming that has so upset environmentalists.

What strikes me about this paragraph is that in one decade the temperatures rose 6C!! And the Earth is still here to tell about it. Now I am sure that many died during that time, but the point is that, what we are going through now is hardly a cause for MAJOR concern. Of course we should protect the environment and be wiser with what God has given us, but lets not get out of hand and try to stifle all innovation and human progress because of unfounded fear. I still have faith in human kind, and especially we in the “West.” Our society was built on innovation and getting the most out of what we have. Everyday we see new ideas and advancements that are smart and safe for the environment, just watch the History Channel’s Modern Marvels from time to time.

The primary argument that this article is making is that the temperature of the Sun determines the temperature of the Earth more than any other factor. Of course it does! In fact they argue that we need to be prepared for global cooling and a mini-ice age more than we do global warming:


Solar scientists predict that, by 2020, the sun will be starting into its weakest Schwabe solar cycle of the past two centuries, likely leading to unusually cool conditions on Earth. Beginning to plan for adaptation to such a cool period, one which may continue well beyond one 11-year cycle, as did the Little Ice Age, should be a priority for governments. It is global cooling, not warming, that is the major climate threat to the world, especially Canada. As a country at the northern limit to agriculture in the world, it would take very little cooling to destroy much of our food crops, while a warming would only require that we adopt farming techniques practiced to the south of us.

I am not saying that this is gospel or anything of the sort, I am not a scientist (although I do find it fascinating). What I am trying to get across is that there is more than one side to every story, and instead of being the alarmists and worriers that we Americans are known to be, lets be patient, continue advancements to protect the environment (not because of global warming, but because it is just the right thing to do), and make plans to prepare for a variety of possible futures.

The scientific studies part of the article is pasted below for those of you who want to see the process they used to arrive at their conclusions:

My interest in the current climate-change debate was triggered in 1998, when I was funded by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council strategic project grant to determine if there were regular cycles in West Coast fish productivity. As a result of wide swings in the populations of anchovies, herring and other commercially important West Coast fish stock, fisheries managers were having a very difficult time establishing appropriate fishing quotas. One season there would be abundant stock and broad harvesting would be acceptable; the very next year the fisheries would collapse. No one really knew why or how to predict the future health of this crucially important resource.

Although climate was suspected to play a significant role in marine productivity, only since the beginning of the 20th century have accurate fishing and temperature records been kept in this region of the northeast Pacific. We needed indicators of fish productivity over thousands of years to see whether there were recurring cycles in populations and what phenomena may be driving the changes.

My research team began to collect and analyze core samples from the bottom of deep Western Canadian fjords. The regions in which we chose to conduct our research, Effingham Inlet on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, and in 2001, sounds in the Belize-Seymour Inlet complex on the mainland coast of British Columbia, were perfect for this sort of work. The topography of these fjords is such that they contain deep basins that are subject to little water transfer from the open ocean and so water near the bottom is relatively stagnant and very low in oxygen content. As a consequence, the floors of these basins are mostly lifeless and sediment layers build up year after year, undisturbed over millennia.

Using various coring technologies, we have been able to collect more than 5,000 years’ worth of mud in these basins, with the oldest layers coming from a depth of about 11 metres below the fjord floor. Clearly visible in our mud cores are annual changes that record the different seasons: corresponding to the cool, rainy winter seasons, we see dark layers composed mostly of dirt washed into the fjord from the land; in the warm summer months we see abundant fossilized fish scales and diatoms (the most common form of phytoplankton, or single-celled ocean plants) that have fallen to the fjord floor from nutrient-rich surface waters. In years when warm summers dominated climate in the region, we clearly see far thicker layers of diatoms and fish scales than we do in cooler years. Ours is one of the highest-quality climate records available anywhere today and in it we see obvious confirmation that natural climate change can be dramatic. For example, in the middle of a 62-year slice of the record at about 4,400 years ago, there was a shift in climate in only a couple of seasons from warm, dry and sunny conditions to one that was mostly cold and rainy for several decades.

Using computers to conduct what is referred to as a “time series analysis” on the colouration and thickness of the annual layers, we have discovered repeated cycles in marine productivity in this, a region larger than Europe. Specifically, we find a very strong and consistent 11-year cycle throughout the whole record in the sediments and diatom remains. This correlates closely to the well-known 11-year “Schwabe” sunspot cycle, during which the output of the sun varies by about 0.1%. Sunspots, violent storms on the surface of the sun, have the effect of increasing solar output, so, by counting the spots visible on the surface of our star, we have an indirect measure of its varying brightness. Such records have been kept for many centuries and match very well with the changes in marine productivity we are observing.

In the sediment, diatom and fish-scale records, we also see longer period cycles, all correlating closely with other well-known regular solar variations. In particular, we see marine productivity cycles that match well with the sun’s 75-90-year “Gleissberg Cycle,” the 200-500-year “Suess Cycle” and the 1,100-1,500-year “Bond Cycle.” The strength of these cycles is seen to vary over time, fading in and out over the millennia. The variation in the sun’s brightness over these longer cycles may be many times greater in magnitude than that measured over the short Schwabe cycle and so are seen to impact marine productivity even more significantly.

Our finding of a direct correlation between variations in the brightness of the sun and earthly climate indicators (called “proxies”) is not unique. Hundreds of other studies, using proxies from tree rings in Russia’s Kola Peninsula to water levels of the Nile, show exactly the same thing: The sun appears to drive climate change.

However, there was a problem. Despite this clear and repeated correlation, the measured variations in incoming solar energy were, on their own, not sufficient to cause the climate changes we have observed in our proxies. In addition, even though the sun is brighter now than at any time in the past 8,000 years, the increase in direct solar input is not calculated to be sufficient to cause the past century’s modest warming on its own. There had to be an amplifier of some sort for the sun to be a primary driver of climate change.

Indeed, that is precisely what has been discovered. In a series of groundbreaking scientific papers starting in 2002, Veizer, Shaviv, Carslaw, and most recently Svensmark et al., have collectively demonstrated that as the output of the sun varies, and with it, our star’s protective solar wind, varying amounts of galactic cosmic rays from deep space are able to enter our solar system and penetrate the Earth’s atmosphere. These cosmic rays enhance cloud formation which, overall, has a cooling effect on the planet. When the sun’s energy output is greater, not only does the Earth warm slightly due to direct solar heating, but the stronger solar wind generated during these “high sun” periods blocks many of the cosmic rays from entering our atmosphere. Cloud cover decreases and the Earth warms still more.

The opposite occurs when the sun is less bright. More cosmic rays are able to get through to Earth’s atmosphere, more clouds form, and the planet cools more than would otherwise be the case due to direct solar effects alone. This is precisely what happened from the middle of the 17th century into the early 18th century, when the solar energy input to our atmosphere, as indicated by the number of sunspots, was at a minimum and the planet was stuck in the Little Ice Age. These new findings suggest that changes in the output of the sun caused the most recent climate change. By comparison, CO2 variations show little correlation with our planet’s climate on long, medium and even short time scales.

In some fields the science is indeed “settled.” For example, plate tectonics, once highly controversial, is now so well-established that we rarely see papers on the subject at all. But the science of global climate change is still in its infancy, with many thousands of papers published every year. In a 2003 poll conducted by German environmental researchers Dennis Bray and Hans von Storch, two-thirds of more than 530 climate scientists from 27 countries surveyed did not believe that “the current state of scientific knowledge is developed well enough to allow for a reasonable assessment of the effects of greenhouse gases.” About half of those polled stated that the science of climate change was not sufficiently settled to pass the issue over to policymakers at all.

Solar scientists predict that, by 2020, the sun will be starting into its weakest Schwabe solar cycle of the past two centuries, likely leading to unusually cool conditions on Earth. Beginning to plan for adaptation to such a cool period, one which may continue well beyond one 11-year cycle, as did the Little Ice Age, should be a priority for governments. It is global cooling, not warming, that is the major climate threat to the world, especially Canada. As a country at the northern limit to agriculture in the world, it would take very little cooling to destroy much of our food crops, while a warming would only require that we adopt farming techniques practiced to the south of us.

Meantime, we need to continue research into this, the most complex field of science ever tackled, and immediately halt wasted expenditures on the King Canute-like task of “stopping climate change.”
R. Timothy Patterson is professor and director of the Ottawa-Carleton Geoscience Centre, Department of Earth Sciences, Carleton University.


1 Comment

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One response to “Global Cooling? A new look at climate change

  1. alochin

    Very good study, although I disagree.
    4000-5000 years ago, human population suddenly dwindled to less than 1000. This was discovered by geneticists.
    It is believed now that a comet impacted the Indian Ocean, causing a global catastrophe. Even Biblical Flood reports could be linked to this event.

    I really hope you are right about the planet cooling. 15 years from now, it may be too late.

    The problem with the climate is that it is fairly stable until it reaches a tipping point. That tipping point may be triggered by events such as sun activity, comet impact, or, as we fear now, Human actions.

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