A new model of the Sun’s interior is producing predictions of its behaviour with unprecedented accuracy; predictions with interesting consequences for Earth. Professor Valentina Zharkova of Northumbria University presented results for a new model of the Sun’s interior dynamo in a talk at the Astronomical Society meeting last week.
The Sun has an approximately 11-year activity cycle. During peak periods, it exhibits lots of solar flares and sunspots. Magnetic bubbles of charged particles (coronal mass ejections) may burst from the surface during this period, streaming material into space. These ejections can affect satellites and power lines on Earth. However, during lull periods, such activity may almost stop altogether. But the 11-year cycle isn’t quite able to predict all of the Sun’s behaviour - which can seem erratic at times. Zharkova and her colleagues (Professor Simon Shepherd of Bradford University, Dr Helen Popova of Lomonosov Moscow State University, and Dr Sergei Zarkhov of Hull University) have found a way to account for the discrepancies called a ‘double dynamo’ system.
The Sun, like all stars, is a large nuclear fusion reactor that generates powerful magnetic fields, similar to a dynamo. The model developed by Kharkov’s team suggests there are two dynamos at work in the Sun; one close to the surface and one deep within the convection zone. They found this dual dynamo system could explain aspects of the solar cycle with much greater accuracy than before - possibly leading to enhanced predictions of future solar behaviour. “We found magnetic wave components appearing in pairs; originating in two different layers in the Sun’s interior. They both have a frequency of approximately 11 years, although this frequency is slightly different [for both] and they are offset in time,” says Zharkova. The two magnetic waves either reinforce one another to produce high activity or cancel out to create lull periods.
Professor Zharkova and her colleagues used magnetic field observations from the Wilcox Solar Observatory in California for three solar cycles, from the period of 1976 to 2008. In addition, they compared their predictions to average sunspot numbers - another strong marker of solar activity. All the predictions and observations matched closely. Their predictions using the model suggest an interesting longer-term trend beyond the 11-year cycle.
It shows that solar activity is expected to fall by 60 % during the 2030’s, to conditions last seen during the ‘Maunder Minimum[ of 1645-1715. “Over the cycle, the waves fluctuate between the Sun’s northern and southern hemispheres. Combining both waves together and comparing to real data for the current solar cycle, we found that our predictions showed an accuracy of 97 %,” says Zharkova.
The model predicts that the magnetic wave pairs will become increasingly offset during the Solar Cycle 25, which peaks in 2022. Then during Cycle 26, which covers the decade from 2030-2040, the two waves will become exactly out of synch, cancelling one another out. This will cause a significant reduction in solar activity. “In Cycle 26, the two waves exactly mirror each other, peaking at the same time but in opposite hemispheres of the Sun. We predict that this will lead to the properties of a ‘Maunder minimum’,” says Zharkova.
The sun was well observed during the period of the original “Maunder Minimum” and this lack of sunspots is well documented.This period of solar inactivity corresponded to a climatic period called the ‘Little Ice Age’ when in Europe rivers that were normally ice-free, froze and snow fields remained at low altitudes throughout the year. There is evidence the sun had similar periods of inactivity during the years 1100-1250 and 1460-1550.
The connection between solar activity and the earth’s climate is an area of ongoing and sometimes controversial research.Time will tell whether the sun will once again go into another “Maunder Minimum” within the lifetime of the present generation, and what affect it will have on our climate.
Note: The “Maunder Minimum” is the name given to the period from 1650 to 1700 when the number of sunspots became almost zero. The period is named after the solar astronomer Edward Walter Maunder (1851-1928) who while working at The Royal Observatory, Greenwich discovered the dearth of sunspots during the 1650-1700 period.
During one 30 year period within the Maunder Minimum there were only about 50 sunspots compared with a more typical 40,000. Maunder was a driving force in the foundation of the British Astronomical Association, and was a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Dr David Whitehouse
The declining Arctic ice cover has been one of the most powerful images of climate change. Most people who follow the debate but who perhaps don’t look at the data, would be excused for holding the opinion that it’s been declining monotonically.
Hence the dire predictions that it will be gone in a few years, if it shouldn’t have gone already. Several years ago I was heavily lambasted by some for daring to say that I didn’t think it would be all gone by 2013!
The Arctic ice has been declining since satellite observations started in 1979 that clearly caught the decline already in progress and probably part of a multi-decadal change.
Now comes a suggestion that Arctic ice is more resilient that was believed. It’s from a recent paper in Nature Geoscience by Tilling at el (2015) called “Increased Arctic sea ice volume after anomalously low melting in 2013.” The headline is that the volume of Arctic sea ice increased by about a third after an unusually cool summer in 2013. Reports went on to say that the unusual growth continued in 2014 and more than compensated for the loss in the three previous tears. Overall it was concluded that changes in summer temperatures in the Arctic have a greater impact on the ice than was thought.
The key graph in Tilling et al (2015) is their figure showing the growth and decline of sea ice volume since 2011. Note that the maximum hardly changes at all over this period and that the minimum ice extent is increasing. Arctic sea ice increasing! This deserves a second look. Click here to enlarge.
It has been noticed before that the minimum extent of Arctic ice extent hasn’t been changing very much in the past few years leading some to speculate about a so-called ice pause. In fact, a close look at the Arctic ice extent shows that since 1998 it has been pausing more than it has been declining.
Here is the minimum extent since 2007 (millions of sq km) and it can be seen that the exceptionally cold year of 2013 mentioned by Tilling et al (2015) is not that exceptional in terms of ice extent.
It is 2012 that is exceptional which was due to an anomalous summer storm that compacted the ice. After the storm the ice returned to levels of a few years previously. There is no general decrease in minimal ice area 2007 - 2014. Things get more interesting when one considers the 1998 - 2014 period.
Clearly there has been a decline over this period but not a steady one. rather it has been a shift between two so-called ice pauses. Here is the 1998 - 2006 data.
Admittedly it is a relatively short period, only 17 years, but we only have satellite data since 1979 which provides an additional 19 years - a period comparable to that discussed above so one must take seriously both ways of looking at the data. I could speculate that it looks like the Arctic ice wants to be stable but that perturbations in 2007 and 2002 upset it.
The Tilling et al (2015) paper is very interesting in its discussion of interannual variation in Arctic ice parameters. There are clearly longer-term variations as well.
The so-called pause or hiatus in global surface temperature was first discussed after about eight years of unchanging data. The “pause” in minimal Arctic ice extent is now 17 years. Already some scientists are suggesting that it is a statistical figment, to be expected, and soon to disappear. The same thing was said about the global surface temperature hiatus. Is nature trying to tell us something?
Ice conditions hold up resupply of Iqaluit, east Hudson Bay
Fuel tanker that reached Iqaluit still unable to unload
Ice conditions this year in the Arctic are making it difficult for ships to deliver the annual resupply of fuel and goods to some Nunavut and Nunavik communities.
Midway through July, only a single oil tanker, aided by a Coast Guard icebreaker, has been able to reach Iqaluit though the sea ice that remains in Frobisher Bay. “We had quite a bit of difficulty bringing it in,” says Johnny Leclair, the Coast Guard’s assistant commissioner.
Sealift ships are also behind schedule, with the MV Anna Desgagnes and the MV Qamutik now tentatively scheduled to arrive later this week. Contrary to predictions made earlier this year, Leclair said, the sea ice in the bay has not been melting.
That, in combination with southeasterly winds, has meant that Frobisher Bay has not been able to “flush” its remaining ice. Instead, a large compacted pan of thick, first-year and multiyear ice has formed in the bay. It’s so thick that icebreakers and commercial ships alike have no choice but to skirt around it, which has led to delay
The same ice has also been blamed for bringing two polar bears into the community last week - a highly unusual event. The Havelstern tanker, laden with fuel destined for the city’s tank farm, took several days to navigate Frobisher Bay with the help of the CCGS Pierre Radisson. Upon reaching the city, it’s still been unable to unload.
“[The ship] cannot get to a secure anchorage to put its line out to fuel the community,” Leclair said. Leclair is hopeful that the tanker will be offloaded later today. By the end of the week, he said, two more Coast Guard icebreakers will be headed north.
Three years ago, heavy ice damaged a sealift ship making its way to Iqaluit and stranded two others at the mouth of the bay.
Heavy ice in east Hudson Bay
The Canadian Coast Guard has also re-deployed its science and research icebreaker the CCGS Amundsen to assist with heavy ice conditions in eastern Hudson Bay. “We haven’t seen these ice conditions in the eastern part of Hudson Bay this late in the season in, I’d say, two decades,” Leclair said. “There is a large patch of ice that has not melted and is creating problems for shipping.”
That could delay resupply of several communities in Northern Quebec. Sealift vessels heading for Inukjuak are currently at least a week behind schedule.
UPDATE: Fruitcakes of the World Unite - this article was in the Times on Friday, and it’s not April 1st:
THE TIMES JULY 25
Climate scientist fears murder by hitman
A Cambridge professor has said that assassins may have murdered scientists who were seeking to reveal how rapidly global warming was melting Arctic ice. Peter Wadhams, professor of ocean physics, said he believed that he had also been targeted but had a narrow escape after a driver of an unmarked lorry tried to push his car off the M25. Professor Wadhams faced criticism this week after a study contradicted his prediction that Arctic ice was melting so fast that it could all disappear this summer.
Asked by The Times for his response to the discovery that the total volume of ice grew 40 per cent in 2013, Professor Wadhams insisted that there was still an outside possibility of the Arctic being ice-free this year. He then said there were only four people in Britain who were “really leaders on ice thickness in the Arctic” and he was one. The others, he said, had died in early 2013. He said: “It seems to me to be too bizarre to be accidental but each individual incident looks accidental, which may mean it’s been made to look accidental.”
He named the three as Seymour Laxon of University College London, Katharine Giles, a climate change scientist who worked with Professor Laxon at UCL, and Tim Boyd of the Scottish Association for Marine Science. Professor Laxon died after falling downstairs at a New Year’s Eve party in Essex; Dr Giles died in a collision with a lorry while cycling to work in London; and police said they believed that Dr Boyd was killed by lightning as he walked near a loch in Scotland.
Professor Wadhams said that about the same time he was driving on the M25 late at night when the lorry hit his car. “This guy showed definite evidence of malevolence. He was trying to run me right off the road.” He said his car was damaged but he managed to get home and called the police the next day. He was told no action could be taken.
“I just thought what is going on here? Somebody is trying to do in people who are working on ice thickness in Britain.” He said: “If it was some kind of death squad, you don’t expect that with something like climate change. I know oil companies have been giving lots and lots of money to… climate change denialist organisations but you don’t expect them to kill people.”
Fiona Strawbridge, Professor Laxon’s partner, said that she had seen similar claims by “ridiculous conspiracy theorists” on the internet but she was certain his death was an accident. She said that she knew Dr Giles and it was clear that her death was also an accident. Dr Strawbridge, who works at UCL, said: “The fact that two scientists in the same group die in the same year is an appalling tragedy and it’s really not helped by these ludicrous theories.” Professor Angela Hatton, a friend and colleague of Dr Boyd, said it was “a coincidence that we lost such a lot of good scientists in an area of science in such a short space of time”.
By Allan MacRae, Calgary, June 12, 2015
Temperature, among other factors, drives atmospheric CO2 much more than CO2 drives temperature. The rate of change dCO2/dt varies ~contemporaneously with temperature, which reflects the fact that the water cycle and the CO2 cycle are both driven primarily by changes in global temperatures (Veizer et al).
To my knowledge, I initiated in January 2008 the hypothesis that dCO2/dt varies with temperature (T) and therefore CO2 lags temperature by about 9 months in the modern data record, and so CO2 could not primarily drive temperature. Furthermore, atmospheric CO2 lags temperature at all measured time scales. See more including the referenced figures below here.
In my Figure 1 and 2, global dCO2/dt is closely correlated with global Lower Tropospheric Temperature (LT) and Surface Temperature (ST). The temperature and CO2 datasets are collected completely independently, and yet this close correlation exists.
After publishing this paper, I also demonstrated the same close correlation with different datasets, using Mauna Loa CO2 data and Hadcrut3 ST back to 1958. Later I examined the close correlation of LT measurements taken by satellite and those taken by radiosonde.
Earlier papers by Kuo (1990) and Keeling (1995) discussed the delay of CO2 after temperature, although neither appeared to notice the even closer correlation of dCO2/dt with temperature. This correlation is noted in my Figures 3 and 4.
My hypothesis received a hostile reaction from both sides of the fractious global warming debate. All the “global warming alarmists” and most “climate skeptics” rejected it. First I was just deemed wrong - the dCO2/dt vs T relationship was allegedly a “spurious correlation”.
Later it was agreed that I was correct, but the resulting ~9 month CO2-after-T lag was dismissed as a “feedback effect”. This remains the counter-argument of the global warming alarmists - apparently a faith-based rationalization to be consistent with their axiom “WE KNOW that CO2 drives temperature”.
This subject has generated spirited discussion among scientists. Few now doubt the close correlation dCO2/dt vs T. Some say that humankind is not the primary cause of the current increase in atmospheric CO2 - that it is largely natural. Others rely on the “mass balance argument” to refute this claim.
The natural seasonal amplitude in atmospheric CO2 ranges up to ~16ppm in the far North (at Barrow Alaska) to ~1ppm at the South Pole, whereas the annual increase in atmospheric CO2 is only ~2ppm. This seasonal “CO2 sawtooth” is primarily driven by the Northern Hemisphere landmass, which has a much greater land area than the Southern Hemisphere. CO2 falls during the Northern Hemisphere summer, due primarily to land-based photosynthesis, and rises in the late fall, winter and early spring as biomass decomposes.
Significant temperature-driven CO2 solution and exsolution from the oceans also occurs. See the beautiful animation.
In this enormous CO2 equation, the only signal that is apparent is that dCO2/dt varies approximately contemporaneously with temperature, and CO2 clearly lags temperature.
CO2 also lags temperature by about 800 years in the ice core record, on a longer time scale. I suggest with confidence that the future cannot cause the past.
I suggest that temperature drives CO2 much more than CO2 drives temperature. This does not preclude other drivers of CO2 such as fossil fuel combustion, deforestation, etc.
My January 2008 hypothesis is gaining traction with the recent work of several researchers. Here is Murry Salby’s address to the Sydney Institute in 2011:
See also this January 2013 paper from Norwegian researchers: The Phase Relation between Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide and Global Temperature Global and Planetary Change, Volume 100, January 2013 by Humlum, Stordahl, and Solheim
- Changes in global atmospheric CO2 are lagging 11-12 months behind changes in global sea surface temperature.
- Changes in global atmospheric CO2 are lagging 9.5-10 months behind changes in global air surface temperature.
- Changes in global atmospheric CO2 are lagging about 9 months behind changes in global lower troposphere temperature.
- Changes in ocean temperatures explain a substantial part of the observed changes in atmospheric CO2 since January 1980.
- Changes in atmospheric CO2 are not tracking changes in human emissions.
Observations and Conclusions:
1. Temperature, among other factors, drives atmospheric CO2 much more than CO2 drives temperature. The rate of change dCO2/dt is closely correlated with temperature and thus atmospheric CO2 LAGS temperature by ~9 months in the modern data record
2. CO2 also lags temperature by ~~800 years in the ice core record, on a longer time scale.
3. Atmospheric CO2 lags temperature at all measured time scales.
4. CO2 is the feedstock for carbon-based life on Earth, and Earth’s atmosphere and oceans are clearly CO2-deficient. CO2 abatement and sequestration schemes are nonsense.
5. Based on the evidence, Earth’s climate is insensitive to increased atmospheric CO2 - there is no global warming crisis.
6. Recent global warming was natural and irregularly cyclical - the next climate phase following the ~20 year pause will probably be global cooling, starting by ~2020 or sooner.
7. Adaptation is clearly the best approach to deal with the moderate global warming and cooling experienced in recent centuries.
8. Cool and cold weather kills many more people than warm or hot weather, even in warm climates. There are about 100,000 Excess Winter Deaths every year in the USA and about 10,000 in Canada.
9. Green energy schemes have needlessly driven up energy costs, reduced electrical grid reliability and contributed to increased winter mortality, which especially targets the elderly and the poor.
10. Cheap, abundant, reliable energy is the lifeblood of modern society. When politicians fool with energy systems, real people suffer and die. That is the tragic legacy of false global warming alarmism.
From Judith Curry, H. Sterling Burnett
A new paper by researchers Thorsten Mauritsen and Bjorn Stevens in Nature Geoscience lends credence to climate scientist Richard Lindzen’s speculation changes in cloud cover in the tropics in response to surface warming could act as a natural infrared iris, allowing increased infrared radiation to escape back into space, a kind of natural release valve to moderate temperatures.
In 2001, when Lindzen and his colleagues released their paper, it was largely dismissed, without any substantive analysis or further study, and deemed discredited by the climate alarmists who dominate the peer-review process and the media. As Judith Curry notes, pressure from the climate alarm industry meant Lindzen’s theory essentially languished until Mauritsen and Stevens’ paper. Curry quotes Andrew Dessler:
“By 2006, when I submitted an analysis of tropospheric water vapor that investigated whether there was an iris in that, one of the reviewers pointedly questioned why anyone was still working on this issue. I subsequently withdrew the paper. Nevertheless, just because Lindzen et al. did not convincingly demonstrate their case does not mean the iris hypothesis is wrong.”
So the “consensus enforcers” found it necessary to “discredit” the iris hypothesis, and by extension Lindzen himself, since the reduced sensitivity threatened the “consensus.” You can see how this pernicious behavior discouraged scientists from investigating the iris hypothesis (I can only imagine how a grant proposal to investigate the iris hypothesis would have fared in peer review).
The observational record suggests climate sensitivity is lower than model predictions and indicates climate models underestimate changes in the water cycle. Those observations opened the door for Mauritsen and Stevens to investigate the possible existence of important feedbacks like the iris effect.
Running multiple iterations of the ECHAM6 general circulation climate model developed by Germany’s Max Planck Institute, with a mathematical representation of the iris effect, Mauritsen and Stevens found the “inclusion of such an effect in a climate model moves the simulated responses of both temperature and the hydrological cycle to rising atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations closer to observations.”
In other words, a widely used climate model, modified to account for Lindzen’s iris effect, better reflects measured temperatures and changes in the water cycle than do climate models not accounting for the iris effect.
-- H. Sterling Burnett
By E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D.
Some folks just don’t play fair.
Media Matters and ForecasttheFacts.org have just teamed up to pressure the media to not to characterize scientists who doubt claims of dangerous manmade global warming as “skeptics.”
Their preferred term?
First, because skepticism is a scientific virtue, which they don’t want to attribute to those who dare question them.
Second, because “denier” smacks of Holocaust denial, anti-Semitism, and Nazism and so is the perfect smear word.
As expressed in a petition ForecasttheFacts.org sent to the Associated Press (AP), they want the AP Stylebook (which many newspapers follow) to include “an entry that captures the following guideline: Don’t use the term ‘skeptic’ to describe anyone who denies scientific facts (such as...man-made climate change).”
“Our country’s top newspapers are still calling climate change deniers ‘skeptics,’” ForecasttheFacts.org complains on its petition page, “and thereby lending them scientific legitimacy and confusing the public on climate change.”
The problem? None of the thousands of scientists and other scholars who doubt dangerous manmade global warming deny climate change, or even manmade climate change. We just think its magnitude is less than alarmists claim - and on that, the scientific facts are solidly on our side.
As we pointed out in our Open Letter to Pope Francis on Climate Change (Read and sign it now!):
On average, [computer climate] models simulate more than twice the observed warming over the relevant period. Over 95% of the models simulate greater warming than has been observed, and only a tiny percentage come tolerably close. None simulated the complete absence of observed warming over approximately the last 16 (according to UAH satellite data) to 26 (according to RSS lower tropospheric data) years.
Nonetheless, ForecasttheFacts.org and Media Matters demand that the media mischaracterize skeptics.
And they claim a good response from New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan, who on May 7 wrote, “readers are right to watch these choices carefully. The difference between skeptic and denier...may seem minor, but it’s really not. Simply put, words matter.”
Well, yes, words matter. “Skeptic” and “denier” aren’t interchangeable. Not only is the first a term of honor for any scientist, and the second a term of scorn. But also, the first is accurate, and the second isn’t.
We hope the Times, and the AP, will remember that.
Just who are Media Matters and ForecasttheFacts.org?
Media Matters for America is, as Byron York points out, “a left-wing media watchdog founded by former right-wing media star David Brock[,] ...part of a group of institutions - the Center for American Progress, MoveOn.org, and others - that have become increasingly important in Democratic politics.”
The Center for American Progress, in turn, is a Left-wing organization run by Neera Tanden, formerly of the Clinton and Obama administrations and Hillary Clinton’s campaign. And MoveOn.org is another Left-wing organization. Both are funded by self-proclaimed “stateless statesman” billionaire George Soros.
ForecasttheFacts.org is “a project launched ...in January 2012, by 350.org, created by notorious anti-corporation activist Bill McKibben (whom I debated in April in New Orleans), and Citizens Engagement Lab, itself a creation of MoveOn.org, a George Soros-funded appendage of the Democratic Party,” as our friends at the Heartland Institute report.
Its aim is “to expose meteorologists blowing” what ForecasttheFacts.org calls “hot air.” Their “hot air”? Climate facts that don’t line up with the climate alarmist message.
So now you know. Those calling for the media to describe skeptics of dangerous manmade global warming as “deniers” are really just Left-wing, anti-industry, pro-Democratic Party shills.
And since they deny the scientific facts that recent warming has been less than half what the models predicted, and that indeed there’s been no warming at all for at least the last 18 years and 5 months, maybe they should be called “deniers.”
By Denis G. Rancourt
The human animal has an instinct to identify potential dangers and to warn others. It is a built-in survival mechanism of any animal that lives in a group. And it is a strong and constant activity, re-enforced by environmental stressors.
This plays out on several time scales, from the immediate in the case of a potential physical assault, to the weekly in checking the weather forecast, to seasonal in preparing for winter, to life-long in planning for inevitable aging, to leaving good things for our grandchildren…
It is in our fiber to look ahead and to plan ahead, especially in the face of foreseeable or detected dangers.
The whole process can spin out of control when the danger is difficult to perceive yet could be lethal. Think of baboons who are on the lookout for a stalking lion. The slightest shadow movement can make them scream and run for the trees. It’s a tense and highly volatile situation.
At this stage in our evolution we are faced with a pathological extension of our collective survival reflex, which is entirely fabricated by our high priests (government funded scientists and talking heads).
If these high priests were not here to tell us that the atmospheric concentration of the minor constituent CO2 is increasing, and that “global mean surface temperature” has increased by some 0.5 C in the last 100 years, then we would never know about these imperceptible causes of our certain eventual collective death as a species.
The priests explain that our certain extinction will occur from a rising sea level and changing regional climates. That these changes will cause mass migrations, ecosystem collapses, agricultural failures, famines, and disease. They also inform us that those who will suffer most are the most vulnerable inhabitants of the planet, as though this were a new feature of the effects of natural disasters.
Therefore, they urge, we must tax carbon emissions, apply cap and trade, and create a global carbon economy to limit CO2 in the atmosphere. And who better to coordinate it all than the World Bank, IMF, and such, given their stellar records in managing equitable development on this little rock. (Or is that economic enforcement of US regime supremacy?)
Forgive me for saying, but this all sounds rather nutso to me.
Nothing could be more like a religion than this crazy movement. We are expected to accept that an essential and growth-limiting plant nutrient (CO2: ) is a toxic pollutant, that the world will be destroyed because of our collective and intrinsic wickedness of emitting CO2, via floods no less.
Take a deep breath (exhale if you dare) and allow me to state a few facts that might help put things into perspective.
Read the rest of his post here.
The video of Denis’s March 27, 2015, University of Ottawa talk entitled “The science and geopolitics of climate change” was produced by filmmaker Peter Biesterfeld and turned out to be of very good image and sound quality.
This past winter broke tons of low temperature records across the eastern seaboard, but would you have guessed the Northeast just had the snowiest winter since the “Little Ice Age”?
“Looking back through accounts of big snows in New England by the late weather historian David Ludlum, it appears for the eastern areas, this winters snowblitz may have delivered the most snow since perhaps 1717,” wrote seasoned meteorologist Joe D’Aleo with Weatherbell Analytics.
“That year, snows had reached five feet in December with drifts of 25 feet in January before one great last assault in late February into early March of 40 to 60 more inches,” D’Aleo wrote. “The snow was so deep that people could only leave their houses from the second floor, implying actual snow depths of as much as 8 feet or more.”
The New England Historical Society wrote that the so-called “Great Snow” of 1717 was so intense that “Puritans in Boston held no church services for two successive weeks” - and if you know anything about Puritans, you know they don’t take missing church lightly.
“Entire houses were covered over, identifiable only by a thin curl of smoke coming out of a hole in the snow,” the Historical Society noted. “In Hampton, N.H., search parties went out after the storms hunting for widows and elderly people at risk of freezing to death.” Sometimes snow would pile so high people would burn “their furniture because they couldn’t get to the woodshed.”
“It wasn’t uncommon for them to lose their bearings and not be able to find the houses,” the society wrote in its account of winter 1717. “People maintained tunnels and paths through the snow from house to house.”
Luckily, in the modern world snow storms are more manageable thanks to plows, de-icing agents and so forth, but even so, some East Coast cities were caught off guard by the extraordinary amount of snow and record cold.
In late January, New York City shut down transit services in the face of about two feet of snow. Similar moves were made in New Jersey, even though the blizzard was not nearly as bad in these two states compared to states in New England.
During that same blizzard, about 30,000 homes in the Boston-Cape Cod area lost power, and near-80 mile per hour winds were reported on Martha’s Vineyard. By March, the city of Boston had gotten more than 110 inches of snow- an all-time record.
Federal agencies in Washington, D.C. shut down in mid-February when the National Weather Service predicted there would be six to eight inches of snow on the ground. The U.S. government was shut down again in early March when forecasters predicted six to seven inches of snow.
The D.C. area’s public schools were also shut down, with students in Fauquier County, Virginia getting 11 snow days and Howard County, Maryland getting seven snow days.
Meteorologists and climate scientists have hotly debated what has caused fierce winters in the last two years. Some climate scientists say it’s global warming, saying warmer temperatures in the Arctic have made the jet stream more wobbly or that warmer temperatures caused more precipitation to build up leading to bigger snowstorms.
Others have argued natural climate cycles are driving the heavy snowfall. Two recent studies from the University of Washington argue that activity in the Pacific Ocean drove warm, dry air into the western U.S. while forcing cold, wet air east.
D’Aleo says a “super La Nina in 2010/11 (2nd strongest in 120 years, by some measures), set up warm water in the central Pacific and cold water near the west coast of North America” and caused drought in the west and frigid weather in the east.
“That warm water came east first to off of Alaska last year leading to the historic winter near the western Lakes and North Central and then the warm water was carried by the currents southeast to the entire west coast forcing the cold to take aim more on the eastern Lakes and Northeast,” D’Aleo wrote.
“The combination of cold and snow here to northern areas and back to the Great Lakes the last two winters, harkens back to the Little Ice Age that ended in the early 20th century,” D’Aleo wrote.
Its ideas would send the West back 100 years and keep poor nations impoverished and wretched
A few years ago, a journalist asked me for my thoughts on the importance of “Earth Hour” which was reprised this past weekend. What I told him applies today, perhaps even more so.
I abhor Earth Hour. Abundant, cheap electricity has been the greatest source of human liberation in the 20th century. Every material social advance in the 20th century depended on the proliferation of inexpensive and reliable electricity.
Giving women the freedom to work outside the home depended on the availability of electrical appliances that free up time from domestic chores. Getting children out of menial labour and into schools depended on the same thing, as well as on the ability to provide safe indoor lighting for reading.
Development and provision of modern health care without electricity is absolutely impossible. The expansion of our food supply, and the promotion of hygiene and nutrition, depended on being able to irrigate fields, cook and refrigerate foods, and have a steady indoor supply of safe hot water.
Many of the world’s poor suffer brutal environmental conditions in their own homes because of the necessity of cooking over indoor fires that burn twigs and dung. This causes local deforestation and the proliferation of smoke-and parasite-related lung diseases.
Anyone who wants to see local conditions improve in the Third World should realize the importance of access to cheap electricity from fossil-fuel based power generating stations. After all, that’s how the West developed.
The whole mentality around Earth Hour demonizes electricity. I cannot do that. Instead, I celebrate it and all that it has provided for humanity. Earth Hour celebrates ignorance, poverty and backwardness.
By repudiating the greatest engine of liberation, it becomes an hour devoted to anti-humanism. It encourages the sanctimonious gesture of turning off trivial appliances for a trivial amount of time, in deference to some ill-defined abstraction called “the Earth,” all the while hypocritically retaining and enjoying the real benefits of continuous, reliable electricity.
People who see virtue in doing without electricity should shut off their fridge, stove, microwave, computer, water heater, lights, TV and all other appliances for a month, not an hour. And pop down to the cardiac unit at the hospital and shut the power off there, too.
I don’t want to go back to nature. Travel to a zone hit by earthquakes, floods and hurricanes to see what it’s like to go back to nature. For humans, living in “nature” meant a short life span marked by violence, disease and ignorance. People who work for the end of poverty and relief from disease are fighting against nature. I hope they leave their lights on.
Here in Ontario, through the use of pollution control technology and advanced engineering, our air quality has dramatically improved since the 1960s, despite the expansion of industry and the power supply. If, after all this, we are going to take the view that the remaining air emissions outweigh all the benefits of electricity, and that we ought to be shamed into sitting in darkness for an hour, like naughty children who have been caught doing something bad, then we are setting up unspoiled nature as an absolute, transcendent ideal that obliterates all other ethical and humane obligations. No thanks.
I like visiting nature, but I don’t want to live there, and I refuse to accept the idea that civilization with all its tradeoffs is something to be ashamed of.
Ross McKitrick is Professor of Economics at the University of Guelph, a Senior Fellow at the Fraser Institute and an adjunct scholar of the Cato Institute.