Abrupt Climate Change

Not by Fire but by Ice


 Updated 22 August 2005      


Abrupt climate change is inevitable 

“Are overwhelmingly abrupt climate changes likely to happen anytime soon?” 

The answer appears to be yes, says Dr. Richard B. Alley, a professor of geosciences at Pennsylvania State University. “Sudden, dramatic climate changes have struck many times in the past,” says Alley, in a recent article in Scientific American (Nov 2004),  “and they could happen again. In fact, they are probably inevitable.”  

“Winter temperatures plummeting six degrees Celsius and sudden droughts scorching farmland around the globe are not just the stuff of scary movies,” says Alley. “Such striking climate jumps have happened before—sometimes within a matter of years. “Natural phenomena, such as El Nino, cause subtle changes in sea-surface temperatures, although scientists are still not sure why.”

 (I think those changes are caused by underwater volcanism.)  

“Temperatures plummet in the region,  and climate in Europe and the eastern U.S. becomes more like Alaska’s.” 

(I think that’s where we’re headed right now.)

 Temperatures can rise just as rapidly. Temperatures jumped 10 degrees Celsius in Central Greenland in a mere decade, says Alley. “That jump, which occurred about 11,500 years ago, is the equivalent of Minneapolis or Moscow acquiring the relatively sultry conditions of Atlanta or Madrid.”

 (In my opinon, the first half of this article is outstanding. Unfortunately, nonwithstanding the fact that such abrupt changes—in both directions, both hot and cold--have occurred many times in the past, Alley somehow jumps to the conclusion that - this time - humans are responsible.)

 (Thanks to Mike Nowak for bringing this article to my attention.)



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