ice age

Climate change in perspective, a tutorial for policy makers

Climate change is a major issue of our times. Concern is affecting environmental, energy, and economic policy decisions. Many politicians are under the mistaken belief that legislation and regulation can significantly mold our climate to forestall any deviation from “normal” and save us from a perceived crisis. This post is intended as a primer for politicians so they can cut through the hype and compare real observational data against the flawed model prognostications.

The information below is gleaned from the scientific literature. The data show that the current warming is not unusual, but part of a natural cycle; that greenhouse gases, other than water vapor, are not significant drivers of climate; that human emissions of carbon dioxide are insignificant when compared to natural emissions of greenhouse gases; and that many predictions by climate modelers and hyped by the media are simply wrong. In spite of all the scary scenarios published, there is no physical evidence showing that human carbon dioxide emissions have a significant effect on global temperature. Carbon dioxide is vital to life on earth and current atmospheric levels are just barely above the minimum required for plant life. Political schemes to cut greenhouse gases will have no measurable effect on temperature but will greatly harm the economy by impeding energy production and use.

The Current Warm Period Is Not Unusual

The graph below, based on reconstruction from the geologic and historical records, shows that there have been several warm/cold cycles since the end of the last glacial epoch. The temperature during the Holocene Climate Optimum and Roman warm period was 3ºF to 10ºF warmer than today in many areas. This is warmer than the extreme scenarios of the IPCC. Clearly, current temperatures are neither unprecedented nor unusually warm. Life and civilization flourished during warm periods.

CCIP fig1

Looking at the broader geologic record, we see that there is little correlation between temperature and carbon dioxide.

CCIP fig 2

Note that there was an ice age at the end of the Ordovician Period when atmospheric CO2 was approximately 4,500 ppm, or more than 11 times the current level. Notice also that the “normal” temperature of this planet is 22̊C, or about 18̊F warmer than it is now.

Al Gore liked to show a graph of the Vostok ice cores from Antarctica which shows a correlation between temperatures and CO2.

CCIP fig 3

But what Gore didn’t tell you is that changes in temperature preceded changes in CO2 by 800 to 1,300 years.. That’s because temperature controls carbon dioxide solubility in the oceans.  Notice that the temperature cycles (the glacial epochs) occur in approximately 100,000-year intervals.  This coincides with the precession of the Earth’s elliptical orbit around the Sun.  (Can you think of anything that would make CO2 cycle this way if it were the driver rather than temperature?)

Why the Climate Models Are Wrong

The IPCC says that warming will produce more water vapor which will enhance greenhouse warming, a positive feedback. All their climate models are based on this assumption. Sounds reasonable except in the real world, it doesn’t happen. Increased water vapor produces more clouds which block the sun thereby inducing cooling, a negative feedback. For a more detailed explanation see my article “Carbon dioxide and the greenhouse effect.” That article also shows why your carbon footprint doesn’t matter and why government policy to reduce CO2 emissions will be ineffective.

According to climate models, the rate of warming should increase by 200-300% with altitude in the tropics, peaking at around 10 kilometers – a characteristic “fingerprint” for greenhouse warming. However, measurements by weather balloons and satellites show the opposite result: no increasing temperature trend with altitude. In other words, the model-predicted “fingerprint” of anthropogenic, greenhouse warming is absent in nature. The computer-predicted signature of greenhouse warming trends should look like the graph on the left below, but according to measurements from satellites and radiosondes, the actual temperature trend is as depicted in the graph on the right.

CCIP fig 4

The models are demonstrably wrong as shown by Dr. Roy Spencer in his comparison of 73 model results versus reality, see his graph here and below.

Spencer models vs real temp

The atmosphere is not static; we have weather which tends to dissipate heat into space. According to real world measurements, the negative feedbacks overwhelm the theoretical positive feedback posited by the IPCC.

The greenhouse model is a simplified story that helps explain how our atmosphere works. However, the real world is very complicated and still not fully understood. Even global warming alarmist James Hansen, formerly head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, had this to say: “The forcings that drive long-term climate change are not known with an accuracy sufficient to define future climate change.” — James Hansen, “Climate forcings in the Industrial era”, PNAS, Vol. 95, Issue 22, 12753-12758, October 27, 1998.

And even the IPCC once admitted, “In climate research and modeling, we should recognize that we are dealing with a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore that the prediction of a specific future climate state is not possible.” — Final chapter, Draft TAR 2000 (Third Assessment Report), IPCC.

If all that weren’t enough, a recent study published by the American Meteorological Society (here) found that individual climate models produced different results when run on different computers, even though the models contained the same coding and input data. And we base expensive policy decisions on this?

Human Contribution to Greenhouse Gases Is Insignificant:

Human carbon dioxide emissions are 3% to 5% of total carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere, and about 98% of all carbon dioxide emissions are reabsorbed through the carbon cycle.

Using data from the Department of Energy and the IPCC we can calculate the impact of our carbon dioxide emissions.  The results of that calculation shows that if we stopped all U.S. emissions it could theoretically prevent a temperature rise of 0.003̊C per year. If every country totally stopped human emissions, we might forestall 0.01̊C of warming.  For the derivation of these numbers, see my post “Your carbon footprint doesn’t matter.”

Although Earth’s atmosphere does have a “greenhouse effect” and carbon dioxide does have a limited hypothetical capacity to warm the atmosphere, there is no physical evidence showing that human carbon dioxide emissions actually produce any significant warming.

The major greenhouse gas is water vapor which accounts for about 97% of the warming effect. The other 3% is attributed to carbon dioxide, methane, CFCs etc. Since carbon dioxide produces less than 3% of the greenhouse effect, and humans produce less than 5% of the carbon dioxide, human carbon dioxide emissions represent about one tenth of one percent of the total greenhouse effect and are therefore insignificant.

The Sun Is the Real Climate Driver

The real drivers of climate are the Sun’s insolation (light and heat), its magnetic flux, and the relative position and orientation of the Earth to the Sun.

There are three main positional variations of the Earth and Sun, called Milankovitch cycles: Orbital Eccentricity, Axial Obliquity (tilt), and Precession of the Equinoxes. These cycles affect the amount and location of sunlight impinging on the earth.

The variations in the Sun’s magnetic flux controls the amount of cosmic rays impinging on the atmosphere. Cosmic rays ionize the atmosphere and the ions form nuclei for cloud formation. Cloud cover has a great effect on global temperature, but this area is still poorly understood and not addressed in climate models.

Should We Be Concerned with Sea Level Rise?

Climate alarmists put forth scary scenarios saying that global warming is causing unprecedented sea level rise and the rise is accelerating. Well, don’t sell your beach-front property yet. Since the end of the last glacial epoch 15,000 years ago, sea level has risen 120 meters, about one meter per century as we entered the current interglacial period. But since about 7,000 years ago, sea level rise has greatly slowed. NOAA puts normal rise at 1 to 3mm per year, about the thickness of a penny. Surely we can deal with that.

Based on geologic evidence, there has been no acceleration of sea level rise in response to increased temperature or CO2 levels for the last 6,000 years. Another study based on worldwide coastal tidal gauge records, shows that the rate of sea level rise is decreasing. Specifically, the mean rate of global sea level rise was “larger in the early part of the 20th century (2.03 ± 0.35 mm/yr 1904-1953), in comparison with the latter part (1.45 ± 0.34 mm/yr 1954-2003).”

The other thing you should realize about the rate of sea level rise is that it is cyclical. The rate accelerates and decelerates on approximately 11-year cycles which suggests that it is driven by solar variation. (Source: Holgate, S.J. 2007. On the decadal rates of sea level change during the twentieth century. Geophysical Research Letters 34: 10.1029/2006GL028492)

Ocean Acidification

We often hear that increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will make the oceans too acidic and dissolve or otherwise harm carbonate-shelled marine fauna. These writers or reporters seem ignorant of the fact that marine fauna evolved when the atmospheric CO2 concentration was more than 10 times higher than the current level.

It has been estimated that current ocean pH is 0.1 pH unit less alkaline than it was in pre-industrial time, and some climate models predict a further decrease of 0.7 pH units by 2300. However, proxy reconstructions of ocean acidity, based on fossil and modern corals, show that ocean pH has oscillated between pH of 7.91 and 8.29 during the past 7,000 years. That is within the alkaline range (neutral is 7). That cyclic variation is nearly four times larger than the 0.1 decrease alarmists are whining about, and even if the model predicted decrease of 0.7 units occurs, the water will still be alkaline. Many studies show that corals and other marine life are able to adapt to the changing pH. The Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change has many articles and a large database addressing this issue here. They conclude there is no cause for alarm.

Extreme Weather

Storms, droughts, heat waves, hurricanes etc. happen, and although alarmists say that global warming is causing more of everything, the real data actually shows either a decline or no trend. See the graphs on Anthony Watts’ extreme weather page here. Also look at his U.S. climate history page here.

Problems with Surface Temperature Data

We are always hearing or reading proclamations that we just had the hottest week, month, year since…(it was cooler). Official surface temperature records have been corrupted by deliberate manipulation, by siting deficiencies, and by ignoring inconvenient data.

Meteorologist Anthony Watts documents many of these problems in a paper published last year. For an introduction and links to the paper see
I will give a local example of temperatures being influenced by the Urban Heat Island effect (UHI). The graph below shows the temperature records of Tucson and Tombstone from about 1885 to 2005. Both graphs show the warming from the “Little Ice Age” which ended about 1850. But the temperature record is very different since about 1900. Tucson shows warming from the UHI, but Tombstone shows a fairly constant temperature. Does the carbon dioxide induced greenhouse effect work only in Cities?

Tucson-tombstone mean temp


The basic conclusion from these data is that carbon dioxide has little effect on climate and all attempts to control carbon dioxide will be a futile exercise in climate control. All the dire predictions are based on flawed computer models. Carbon dioxide is a phantom menace.

No researchers nor the IPCC have presented any physical or observational evidence that CO2 is a significant driver of temperature.

Climate models are complex mathematical constructs. But the atmosphere is even more complex, so modelers must ignore many variables such as Sun-Earth relationships and clouds, in favor of a few basic parameters. The fundamental assumption of climate models is that changes in CO2 concentration drive temperature change, but evidence from geology and astronomy show that the relationship is just the opposite, temperature change drives CO2 concentration.

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” – H. L. Mencken

Climate Change Reconsidered II – A major new report on the state of the climate

Cover-CCR-II-117x150Climate Change Reconsidered II (CCR-II) is an independent, comprehensive, and authoritative report on the current state of climate science. It is produced by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), an international network of climate scientists sponsored by three nonprofit organizations: the Science and Environmental Policy Project, Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, and The Heartland Institute.

NIPCC’s basic conclusion: “NIPCC’s conclusion, drawn from its extensive review of the scientific evidence, is that the greenhouse gas-induced global climate signal is so small as to be embedded within the background variability of the natural climate system and is not dangerous.”

CCR-II consists of three parts: a Summary for Policy Makers (22 pages) and CCR-II Physical Science (Ca. 1,018 pages, 20Mb) are available for free download.  The third part, titled Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerabilities, is expected to be released in March, 2014.

Approximately 40 scientists are participating as authors, contributors, or reviewers. Lead authors are Dr. Craig D. Idso, a geologist and founder and current chairman of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change; Dr. Robert M. Carter, a marine geologist and environmental scientist and formerly professor and head of the School of Earth Sciences at James Cook University (Australia); and Dr. S. Fred Singer, an atmospheric physicist formerly a professor at the University of Virginia and currently director of the Science and Environmental Policy Project.

CCR-II cites more than 1,000 peer-reviewed scientific papers to show that the IPCC has ignored or misinterpreted much of the research that challenges the need for carbon dioxide controls. In other words, the NIPCC report demonstrates that the science being relied upon by governments to create multi-billion dollar policies is almost certainly wrong.

What follows are excerpts of the key findings from the Executive Summary (you can read a more extensive list of findings from the executive summary here, about five pages).

• Atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) is a mild greenhouse gas that exerts a diminishing warming effect as its concentration increases.

• Doubling the concentration of atmospheric CO2 from its pre-industrial level, in the absence of other forcings and feedbacks, would likely cause a warming of ~0.3 to 1.1°C, almost 50% of which must already have occurred.

• A few tenths of a degree of additional warming, should it occur, would not represent a climate crisis.

• Model outputs published in successive IPCC reports since 1990 project a doubling of CO2 could cause warming of up to 6°C by 2100. Instead, global warming ceased around the end of the twentieth century and was followed (since 1997) by 16 years of stable temperature.

• Over recent geological time, Earth’s temperature has fluctuated naturally between about +4°C and -6°C with respect to twentieth century temperature. A warming of 2°C above today, should it occur, falls within the bounds of natural variability.

• Though a future warming of 2°C would cause geographically varied ecological responses, no evidence exists that those changes would be net harmful to the global environment or to human well-being.

• At the current level of ~400 ppm we still live in a CO2-starved world. Atmospheric levels 15 times greater existed during the Cambrian Period (about 550 million years ago) without known adverse effects.

• The overall warming since about 1860 corresponds to a recovery from the Little Ice Age modulated by natural multidecadal cycles driven by ocean-atmosphere oscillations, or by solar variations at the de Vries (~208 year) and Gleissberg (~80 year) and shorter periodicities.

• Earth has not warmed significantly for the past 16 years despite an 8% increase in atmospheric CO2, which represents 34% of all extra CO2 added to the atmosphere since the start of the industrial revolution.

• CO2 is a vital nutrient used by plants in photosynthesis. Increasing CO2 in the atmosphere “greens” the planet and helps feed the growing human population.

• No close correlation exists between temperature variation over the past 150 years and human-related CO2 emissions. The parallelism of temperature and CO2 increase between about 1980 and 2000 AD could be due to chance and does not necessarily indicate causation.

• The causes of historic global warming remain uncertain, but significant correlations exist between climate patterning and multidecadal variation and solar activity over the past few hundred years.

• Forward projections of solar cyclicity imply the next few decades may be marked by global cooling rather than warming, despite continuing CO2 emissions.

To review the links:

CCR-II Physical Science full report

Summary for Policy Makers

Extracted Executive Summary

Speculations on Neanderthals

Researchers at Arizona State University and the University of Colorado have come up with a new idea on the demise of the Neanderthals: “Neanderthals were gradually absorbed within the expanding modern human populations until they eventually disappeared as a distinctly separate human population and phenotype.”

Using data from 167 Pleistocene assemblages across western Eurasia, the researchers claim to have tracked “behavioral changes in Western Eurasia over a period of 100,000 years and showed that human mobility increased over time, probably in response to environmental change….[T]he last Ice Age saw hunter-gathers, including both Neanderthals and the ancestors of modern humans, range more widely across Eurasia searching for food during a major shift in the Earth’s climate.”  The time period involved was about 128,000 to 11,500 years ago which spans the most recent glacial epoch and part of its preceding interglacial period.

The study results are based on computer modeling, and therefore subject to influence by the assumptions made in the model.  However, Michael Barton, study co-author from Arizona State University says: “We tested the modeling results against the empirical archaeological record and found that there is evidence that Neanderthals, and moderns, did adapt their behaviors in the way in which we modeled.”  “Moreover, the modeling predicts the kind of low-level genetic admixture of Neanderthal genes that are being found in the newest genetic studies just now being published.”

The study is “Modeling Human Ecodynamics and Biocultural Interactions in the Late Pleistocene of Western Eurasia” published in Human Ecology, abstract here.

Read more from EurekAlert! press release here and an article from Popular Archaeology here.

See also:

Cold Case: What Killed the Mammoths



NASA Says Earth Is Entering A Cooling Period

Most of the headlines are grabbed by NASA’s James Hansen, Head of Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York. Hansen has been the doomsayer-sayer-in-chief of the climate alarmists along with Al Gore. Hansen has been quoted as saying, “The trains carrying coal to power plants are death trains.” But other NASA scientists who use satellites to collect real data, take a different view, and are now saying that “our world should be just beginning to enter a new period of cooling — perhaps the next ice age.”

Here is the complete NASA article:

What are the primary forcings of the Earth system?

The Sun is the primary forcing of Earth’s climate system. Sunlight warms our world. Sunlight drives atmospheric and oceanic circulation patterns. Sunlight powers the process of photosynthesis that plants need to grow. Sunlight causes convection which carries warmth and water vapor up into the sky where clouds form and bring rain. In short, the Sun drives almost every aspect of our world’s climate system and makes possible life as we know it.

Earth’s orbit around and orientation toward the Sun change over spans of many thousands of years. In turn, these changing “orbital mechanics” force climate to change because they change where and how much sunlight reaches Earth. Thus, changing Earth’s exposure to sunlight forces climate to change. According to scientists’ models of Earth’s orbit and orientation toward the Sun indicate that our world should be just beginning to enter a new period of cooling — perhaps the next ice age.

However, a new force for change has arisen: humans. After the industrial revolution, humans introduced increasing amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and changed the surface of the landscape to an extent great enough to influence climate on local and global scales. By driving up carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere (by about 30 percent), humans have increased its capacity to trap warmth near the surface.

Other important forcings of Earth’s climate system include such “variables” as clouds, airborne particulate matter, and surface brightness. Each of these varying features of Earth’s environment has the capacity to exceed the warming influence of greenhouse gases and cause our world to cool. For example, increased cloudiness would give more shade to the surface while reflecting more sunlight back to space. Increased airborne particles (or “aerosols”) would scatter and reflect more sunlight back to space, thereby cooling the surface. Major volcanic eruptions (such as that of Mt. Pinatubo in 1992) can inject so much aerosol into the atmosphere that, as it spreads around the globe, it reduces sunlight and cause Earth to cool. Likewise, increasing the surface area of highly reflective surface types, such as ice sheets, reflects greater amounts of sunlight back to space and causes Earth to cool.

Scientists are using NASA satellites to monitor all of the aforementioned forcings of Earth’s climate system to better understand how they are changing over time, and how any changes in them affect climate.

I note that other NASA pages contradict the statement above and are more alarmist. So much for consensus.

Climate Change and Biodiversity

Climate alarmists have claimed that global warming will cause massive species extinctions. The geologic record shows the opposite. As “climate change” itself loses traction, green extremists are switching to “biodiversity” as the next bogeyman. The U.N. is launching its “International Year of Biodiversity.” But the current wildlife extinction rate is the lowest in 500 years according to the UN’s own World Atlas of Biodiversity. Environmental groups are beginning to use the Endangered Species Act (ESA) as an excuse to control carbon dioxide emissions. Perhaps the first species to be listed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) on speculation of the effects of global warming is the polar bear.

On May 14, 2008, FWS listed the polar bear as a “threatened” species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), based on the supposition that carbon dioxide emissions are melting the bear’s Arctic habitat.

In 2007, just prior to listing, the Arctic sea ice reached the lowest level recorded since 1979 when satellites began tracking the ice. However, that same year, Antarctic sea ice reached the maximum extent ever recorded. Did you hear about that?

The Department of the Interior press release on the polar bear claimed, “The listing is based on the best available science, which shows that loss of sea ice threatens and will likely continue to threaten polar bear habitat. This loss of habitat puts polar bears at risk of becoming endangered in the foreseeable future, the standard established by the ESA for designating a threatened species.” Really? Environmental groups are suing to force FWS to upgrade the listing to “endangered.”

The FWS listing is based on computer projections and false assumptions. An article in Science Daily claims, “Federal Polar Bear Research Critically Flawed…” People who live in the Arctic know that polar bear populations have been increasing, mainly due to changes in hunting regulations. Native Inuit hunters say that “The growing population has become ‘a real problem,’especially over the last 10 years.”

The polar bear has been around for a very long time and somehow survived conditions that were warmer than now and warmer than computer projections. It is also telling that the Canadian government, which oversees 14 of the 19 polar bear populations, has not listed the bear as “threatened” or “endangered.” The Alaska Department of Fish & Game opposed the listing claiming that FWS did not use the best available science and that FWS cherry-picked models, choosing only those which supported their case. Alaska fish & game says that polar bear populations “are abundant, stable, and unthreatened by direct human activity.”

FWS has a Climate Change Strategic Plan which is based largely on reports from the now discredited Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). (See my posts The Assumed Authority, and IPCC and Peer Review.)

 Real, on the ground, research into the relationship between global warming, species extinction, and biodiversity paints a picture very different from the speculative computer models. Abundant research shows that warming increases the range for most terrestrial plants and animals, and for most marine creatures. Increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere makes plants more water efficient and more robust. For an introduction to this research see “The Specter of Species Extinction, Will Global Warming Decimate Earth’s Biosphere?” That report concludes:

The CO2-induced global warming extinction hypothesis claims that as the world warms in response to the ongoing rise in the air’s CO2 content, many species of plants and animals will not be able to migrate either poleward in latitude or upward in elevation fast enough to avoid extinction as they try to escape the stress imposed by the rising temperature. With respect to plants, however, we have shown that as long as the atmosphere’s CO2 concentration rises in tandem with its temperature, most of them will not “feel the heat,” as their physiology will change in ways that make them better adapted to warmer conditions. Hence, although earth’s plants will likely spread poleward and upward at the cold-limited boundaries of their ranges in response to a warming-induced opportunity to do so, their heat-limited boundaries will probably remain pretty much as they are now or shift only slightly. Consequently, in a world of rising atmospheric CO2 concentration, the ranges of most of earth’s plants will likely expand if the planet continues to warm, making plant extinctions even less likely than they are currently.

Animals should react much the same way. In response to concurrent increases in atmospheric temperature and CO2 concentration, they will likely migrate poleward and upward, where cold temperatures prevented them from going in the past, as they follow earth’s plants. Also as with earth’s plants, the heat-limited boundaries of their ranges should in many cases be little affected, as has been observed in several of the real-world studies that have been wrongly cited as providing evidence for impending species extinctions, or their entire ranges may simply shift with the rising temperature, as has been observed in many real-world studies of marine ecosystems.

To summarize, both theory and observation paint the same picture. A goodly portion of earth’s plants and animals should actually expand their ranges and gain a stronger foothold on the planet as the atmosphere’s temperature and CO2 concentration continue to rise. If the air’s CO2 content were suddenly to stop increasing, however, the biosphere could find itself facing a significant challenge, as the world’s plants would cease acquiring the extra physiological protection against heat stress that is afforded them by rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Consequently, the end result of curtailing anthropogenic CO2 emissions might well be just the opposite of what many people are hoping to accomplish by encouraging that policy, i.e., many species might actually be driven to extinction, rather than being saved from such a fate.

For even more information, go to and look in their subject index under “extinction.” There you will find reviews of the scientific literature based on real world observations. This research, as well as geologic history, show that a warmer world increases biodiversity. Habitat destruction from other causes is a separate issue.

Looking at the greater geologic record, we see that major extinctions are associated with ice ages and other cooling events. After each ice age, as the planet warmed, life rebounded with more speciation and greater biodiversity. The geologic record also shows that the “normal” temperature of this planet (when we are not in an ice age, or an interglacial period of an ice age) is about 18 degrees F warmer than now (see chart in this post). Even in our current interglacial period, warm cycles have been up to 10 degrees F warmer than now and we have not seen massive extinctions. (The megafauna extinction of about 10,000 years ago was associated with a rapid cooling period, the Younger Dryas.) The hot and steamy Cretaceous Period saw the development of flowering plants and a great increase in biodiversity.

It seems that the Fish & Wildlife Service is following a political agenda based on junk science.

(For another example of FWS junk science see, Jaguar Listing and Habitat Designation Based on Junk Science)

Harrison Schmitt on climate history

harrison_schmitt203-150x112This is a guest post by Dr. Harrison Schmitt, former United States Senator from New Mexico as well as a geologist and former Apollo Astronaut. This is a good review of the natural climate change that the planet has experienced. Dr. Schmitt says:

Americans should think long and hard about their children’s future before giving up liberties and incomes to politicians in Washington and at the United Nations in the name of “doing something” about climate change. Given how little we actually know about climate, as well as great uncertainties in what we do know, the President, regulators, and Congress have chosen an extraordinarily dangerous path of unconstitutional usurpation of the rights of the people and the constitutionally reserved powers of the States.

Climate change assumptions rather than facts, and computer modeling rather than real-world observations, underpin the Government’s efforts to restrict American liberties and confiscate trillions of dollars of American income. The scientific rationale behind this proposed massive intrusion into American life requires more than a “consensus” of like-minded climate analysts and bureaucrats. It needs to be right.

Ten thousand years of natural, post-Ice Age climate variability should give pause to those who maintain that current slow global warming and carbon dioxideincreases result largely from human use of fossil fuels. Public confidence in that position also suffers from the exposure of fraudulent academic and bureaucratic behavior aimed at overriding normal processes of skeptical scientific review and debate.  (more…)

Where the Glyptodonts Roamed

Imagine a Volkswagen-sized armadillo. Such an animal roamed Arizona during the last glacial epoch and into the beginning of our current interglacial period. Its South American cousin sported a tail with a spiked mace which helped it fend off predators such as saber-toothed cats.


The Arizona Geological Survey has a special report on Glyptodonts by David Gillette.

Gillette writes, “Glyptodonts were 4-legged tanks, pseudo-tortoises with fur, protected by a rigid shell composed of tightly interlocking plates an inch thick and more. The largest glyptodonts weighed a ton, ate plants, and probably spent a lot of time in water, along shores of lakes and streams. They resembled their distant relatives, the armadillos, but the fossil record of these two groups spans tens of millions of years indicating they diverged early in the history of their branch of placental mammals.”

“Glyptodonts and ground sloths should be in the vocabulary of every native Arizonan, because these strange animals were among the Arizonans that lived beside mastodons, mammoths, saber-tooth cats, lions, extinct horses, camels, llamas and more in the North American Ice Age, right here in the desert Southwest. It’s desert here now, but 2 million years ago, these animals lived in well-watered savannas and riparian forests that later dwindled …and left little but these fossils as testament to wet times gone by. This was the ‘glyptodont fauna,’ so named because these armored tanks were at times the most abundant large animal in this bizarre landscape.”

“The story of these pilgrims from South America involves two supercontinents, three continents, two oceans, an island chain, an isthmus, glaciers, and sea level. It begins 200 million years ago, early in the Mesozoic Era, during the time of dinosaurs. Earth’s midsection was mostly ocean, and two huge landmasses occupied the northern hemisphere (Laurasia) and the southern hemisphere (Gondwana). The breakup of Gondwana began then, a process that produced the Gondwana continents: Antarctica, Australia, New Zealand, Africa, South America, India, and Madagascar. South America, the homeland of our armored immigrants, separated from Africa, Australia separated from one side of Antarctica and South America from the other side, and eventually Antarctica took its present, familiar polar position. The other land masses slipped away, in the process creating new ocean landscapes: the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, and with the final isolation of Antarctica, the Antarctic Sea.”

Eventually, North and South America were connected by the Isthmus of Panama which allowed the fauna of each continent to mix. Glyptodonts eventually reached Arizona. “The earliest population, known mainly from southeastern Arizona, became dominant members of the ecosystem. They were small as glyptodonts go, weighing perhaps a quarter to half a ton. These were the progenitors of at least two more species in the United States, and two other species known from single specimens in Mexico. But they all belong in the genus Glyptotherium (groove-toothed beast).” The descendant species, Glyptotherium arizonae, had adults nearly twice as large with weights exceeding a ton. They extended from Arizona to Florida.


One remarkable skull from southeastern Arizona has two elliptical puncture holes, interpreted as the consequence of a fatal attack by a large predatory cat. This skull is on display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Arrows point to the two puncture holes.

Fossil hunters, be on the lookout for scutes, the interlocking pieces of the bony shell. The arrows point to follicles that housed bristles which helped the animal sense its surroundings.


Read the full story:

Environment Arizona – The Rest of the Story

Scamming the Media

Last week we read or heard stories that said “Arizona’s global warming pollution increased by 61 percent since 1990, according to a new analysis of government data released today by Environment Arizona.” The “pollution” referred to is carbon dioxide.

Those stories are a good example of Mark Twain’s observation: “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re mis-informed.”

Percapita-emissionsThe press release by Environment Arizona spun their findings to maximize sensationalism. It is clear from the media stories, that most reporters either did not read the full study, or chose to report only the headline-grabbing, but misleading statistic.

 The study itself says that Arizona per capita carbon dioxide emissions are below the national average. It also says that Arizona per capita emissions have decreased by 6% since 1990. Why didn’t that last statistic make the headlines?

 Along with statistics gleaned from the EPA, Environment Arizona spouts the tired propaganda of global warming alarmists such as: “Temperature increases of only 3.6° F higher than pre-industrial levels could have catastrophic consequences—and 1.4° F of warming has already occurred.” Regular readers of this blog will know that we are currently in an interglacial period of an ice agethat the “normal” temperature of this planet is about 18 F warmer than it is now, and that atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide for most of the planet’s history has been 3- to 10 times higher than now. (See chart below, see also my seven-part series on geological history, Natural Climate Cycles, and other blogs in the climate change category.)

 Environmental Arizona claims that carbon dioxide is the “leading global warming pollutant.” But carbon dioxide is insignificant compared to water vapor as a greenhouse gas. The term “pollutant” is both emotive and erroneous. The dictionary defines a pollutant as “a harmful chemical or waste material discharged into the water or atmosphere.” Carbon dioxide, however, is vital to life. Without it, there would be no life on this planet, and geological history shows that life is more abundant and robust at concentrations above 1,000 ppm, three times the current concentration.

 Environment Arizona is one of the many branches of Public Interest Research Groups (PIRG), founded by Ralph Nader in the 1970’s as a consumer advocacy organization. PIRG seems to have morphed beyond that cause.

 In researching this article, I found some stories which show that PIRG has been less than honest in its fund raising and advocacy.

 A Boston Globe story ( ) says: PIRGs collect huge amounts of money through a dishonest scheme called a “negative checkoff.” Each semester, students are automatically charged for a “donation” to PIRG of several dollars; the charge is included in their tuition. It isn’t mandatory, but a student who is unwilling to finance PIRG’s left-wing political agenda must affirmatively refuse to pay. PIRG figures that many students — and many parents — won’t realize the fee is optional or even notice it on the bill. Sure enough, amid the tumult of each new semester, most students just pay up — and PIRG grows ever richer. In New Jersey last year, NJPIRG used the negative checkoff to milk students for an estimated $200,000. In Florida, the take was about $320,000. In Massachusetts, $400,000. (In some states, the PIRG “donation” is mandatory. New York students were euchered out of $800,000 — forced to subsidize NYPIRG’s political objectives whether they agreed with them or not.)

 A recent report by the Reason Foundation (a libertarian think tank) accuses PIRG of issuing misleading reports on transportation: “The always anti-privatization Public Interest Research Group has just released its second report criticizing the growing trend of state governments turning to long-term public-private partnership (PPP) deals to attract private investment into their ailing highway systems. The worst distortion of what’s going on is the way the PIRG report blurs the distinction between leases of existing toll roads and similar long-term deals that create brand new (and much-needed) toll roads via private capital investment.” (

The Competitive Enterprise Institute today (April 6, 2000 ) accused the U.S. Public Interest Research Group of misleading the American public about the ramifications of global warming. U.S. PIRG’s new report, Storm Warning: Global Warming and the Rising Costs of Extreme Weather, is yet another attempt to link global warming to events where there is no link to be made.,02595.cfm

 Yes, I realize that stories detrimental to PIRG come mainly from more conservative sources, perhaps because more liberal publications don’t usually print the stories.

 The conclusion I draw from this affair is that many news organizations publish by press release without checking the full story and the potential biases of its source.

 Phanerozic temp

Ice Ages and Glacial Epochs

If you have been reading my series on the geological history of Arizona (see Article Index), you may have noticed that the Earth has plunged into an ice age every 145 million years or so. But wait, haven’t ice ages occurred more frequently? No. There is confusion because the term “ice age” is frequently misused by Journalists (and often by many geologists) when they really mean glacial epoch. So what is the difference? An ice age consists of several glacial epochs separated by warmer interglacial periods.

A glacial epoch is a time during which much of the earth’s surface is covered by glaciers. The frequency and duration of glacial epochs are related to the position and orientation of the earth with respect to the sun. The location of the continents also influences the severity of glacial epochs because continents confine ocean currents. For the last 500,000 years of our current ice age, the glacial epoch-interglacial cycle has had a periodicity of 100,000 years. Prior to 500,000 years ago, the glacial-interglacial cycle was 41,000 years. We are now enjoying an interglacial period.

Ice Ages

Our current ice age, called the Pleistocene, started about 2.6 million years ago. Ice ages are related to the position of the solar system within the galaxy. Ice ages have occurred whenever the solar system passes through one of the five known spiral arms of our galaxy, which occurs at intervals of about 145 million years (± 10 million years).

What do stars have to do with ice ages? The hypothesis, greatly simplified is this: Star density within the spiral galactic arms is much greater than in the galactic disk, hence, the flux of cosmic rays is much greater. Cosmic rays penetrating our atmosphere collide with molecules in the air and produce ionization. The ionized particles attract water and produce more clouds than normal. The clouds reflect sunlight which causes cooling. There is both observational and experimental evidence to support this hypothesis. Cosmic ray flux can be deduced from the so-called cosmogenic nuclides, such as beryllium-10, carbon-14, and chlorine-36, as measured in ancient sediments, trees, shells, and in meteorites. The geologic reconstruction of temperature is based on oxygen-18 isotopes from fossils and cave stalagmites. Also, glaciation leaves distinctive deposits and land-forms.

In the graph below, the top panel shows several calculated cosmic ray flux reconstructions. In the bottom panel, that curve is flipped to represent the cooling effect. Notice that the cosmic ray flux coincides with the geologic reconstruction of ice ages. (The green “residual” curve represents the mathematical variance between models and observations.)


Glacial Epochs

Glacial epochs within ice ages seem to be controlled by the relationship of the earth to the sun. There are three main variations called Milankovitch cycles (after Serbian geophysicist Milutin Milankoviæ who first calculated the cycles): Orbital Eccentricity, Axial Obliquity, and Precession of the Equinoxes. All these cycles affect the amount and location of sunlight impinging on the earth. The following explanation of the cycles are summarized from The Resilient Earth:

Eccentricity cycle of 100,000 years

Earth’s orbit goes from measurably elliptical to nearly circular in a cycle that takes around 100,000 years. When Earth’s orbital eccentricity is at its peak (~9%), seasonal variation reaches 20-30%. Additionally, a more eccentric orbit will change the length of seasons in each hemisphere by changing the length of time between the vernal and autumnal equinoxes. The variation in eccentricity doesn’t change regularly over time, like a sine wave. This is because Earth’s orbit is affected by the gravitational attraction of the other planets in the solar system.

Where we are now: Earth’s current orbital eccentricity is 0.0167, which is relatively circular. Presently, Earth’s distance from the Sun at perihelion, on January 3rd, is 91 million miles. Earth’s distance from the Sun at aphelion, on July 4th, is 95 million miles. This difference between the aphelion and perihelion causes Earth to receive 7% more solar radiation in January than in July. Currently, Earth’s orbital eccentricity is close to the minimum of its cycle. There is also a weak variation cycle of 413,000 years.

Axial Obliquity cycle of 41,000 years

The second Milankovitch cycle involves changes in obliquity, or tilt, of Earth’s axis which varies on a 41,000 year cycle from 22.1° to 24.5°. The smaller the tilt, the less seasonal variation there is between summer and winter at middle and high latitudes. For small tilt angles, the winters tend to be milder and the summers cooler. Cool summer temperatures are thought more important than cold winters, for the growth of continental ice sheets. This implies that smaller tilt angles lead to more glaciation.  Where we are now: Currently, axial tilt is approximately 23.45 degrees, reduced from 24.50 degrees just a thousand years ago.

Precession cycle of 23,000- 25,800 years

The third cycle is due to precession of the spin axis. As a result of a wobble in Earth’s spin, the orientation of Earth in relation to its orbital position changes. This occurs because Earth, as it spins, bulges slightly at its equator. The equator is not in the same plane as the orbit of Earth and other objects in the solar system. The gravitational attraction of the Sun and the Moon on Earth’s equatorial bulge tries to pull Earth’s spin axis into perpendicular alignment with Earth’s orbital plane. Earth’s rotation is counterclockwise [viewed from above the north pole]; gravitational forces make Earth’s spin axis move clockwise in a circle around its orbital axis. This phenomenon is called precession of the equinoxes because, over time, this backward rotation causes the seasons to shift.

The full cycle of equinox precession takes 25,800 years to complete. Due to the eccentricity cycle, Earth is closest to the Sun in January and farther away in July, but the northern hemisphere is tilted away. Due to precession, the reverse will be true 12,900 years from now. The Northern Hemisphere will experience summer in December and winter in June. The North Star will no longer be Polaris because the axis of Earth’s rotation will be pointing at the star Vega instead.

Individually, each of the three cycles affect insolation patterns. When taken together, they can partially cancel or reinforce each other in complicated ways.

Glacial epochs can be triggered when tilt is small, eccentricity is large, and perihelion, when Earth is closest to Sun, occurs during the Northern Hemisphere’s winter. Perihelion during the Northern Hemisphere winter results in milder winters but cooler summers, conditions that keep snow from melting over the summer. Deglaciation is triggered when perihelion occurs in Northern Hemisphere summer and Earth’s tilt is near its maximum. There are other factors which act to enhance the forcing effects of the cycles. These include various feedback mechanisms such as snow and ice increasing Earth’s albedo, changes in ocean circulation and enhanced greenhouse heating due to increased CO2 and water vapor concentrations.

Solar Cycles

The sun itself goes through cycles of solar intensity and magnetic flux. When the cycles are in a strong phase, the amount of cosmic rays entering the atmosphere is reduced, there are fewer clouds to block the sun, so it is warmer. When solar cycles wane, as is beginning to happen now, more cosmic rays enter the atmosphere and produce more clouds which block the sun, so it becomes cooler.

The number of sunspots (hence magnetic flux) varies on an average cycle of 11 years. There are also 87-year (Gliessberg) and 210-year (DeVriess-Suess) cycles in the amplitude of the 11-year sunspot cycle which combine to form an approximately 1,500-year cycle of warming and cooling. So far, there is no evidence that atmospheric carbon dioxide has anything to do with the cause of ice ages or glacial epochs.  The graph below shows the correlation between temperature and sunspot cycles, and only coincidental correlation with carbon dioxide.



See also: Climate change in perspective, a tutorial for policy makers


Hoffman, D.L. and Simmons, A., 2008, The Resilient Earth, an online book:

Shaviv, N.J., 2003, The spiral structure of the Milky Way, cosmic rays, and ice age epochs on Earth, New Astronomy 8, 39. (link)

Shaviv, N.J., and Veizer, Jan, 2003, Celestial Driver of Phanerozoic Climate, GSA Today, July 2003.

Veizer, Jan, 2005, Celestial Climate Driver: A Perspective from Four Billion Years of the Carbon Cycle, Geoscience Canada, V. 32, no. 1.

Arizona Geological History: Chapter 3: Devonian to Permian Time

Arizona warms from ice age, becomes tropical again, gets flooded by the ocean, suffers another ice age, warms up, makes coal, and suffers a major extinction of life.

In this chapter we will complete the Paleozoic Era with four periods: Devonian (416- to 359 million years ago), Mississippian (359-318 mya), Pennsylvanian (318- 299 mya), and the Permian (299-251 mya). In the European classification, the Mississippian and Pennsylvanian are, together, called the Carboniferous period because it was during this time that most coal deposits were formed.

Paleomap 390After recovery from the Ordovician ice age (about 440 mya), Arizona was apparently a highland on the southwest edge of a continental mass, about 30 degrees south of the equator. I say apparently, because there is no record from the Silurian period (444- to 416 mya ), so Arizona may have been dry land that was subject to erosion.

Paleomap 306During the last four periods of the Paleozoic, Arizona was mainly under water. The rocks deposited during this time represent deposition on a continental shelf environment. There were several episodes of transgression (encroaching) and regression of the sea from the west. Only what is now the northeastern corner of the state remained above sea level for most of the time. The rise and fall of the sea was due to both tectonic shifting of land and changes in water volume from the glacial epochs.

Limestone was the principal rock deposited during this time along with relatively minor shale and sandstones. All the formations contain fossils. These limestones currently make up most of the mountain ranges south of Tucson.

Mississippian rocks rest unconformably (not at the same angle or with evidence of erosion) on Devonian and older rocks. This means that there was some tectonic adjustment and erosion between the two Periods. (And by the way, the geologic Periods are usually defined by their distinct fossil assemblages). The principal formation of the Devonian is called the Martin Formation with type area in Bisbee. The principal Mississippian limestone is called the Redwall Limestone near the Grand Canyon and the Escabrosa Limestone in southern Arizona. Kartchner caverns are in the Escabrosa Limestone, but the caves formed recently.

Paleomap 255Pennsylvanian and Permian rocks represent complex cycles of transgression/regression by the sea, caused by changes in water volume due to glacial epochs, and by tectonic uplift and sinking of the continent. This tectonic shifting was the result of the collision of Gondwana on the south with Pangea on the north. Carbonate rocks dominate in the northwest and southeast, while sandstones and conglomerates dominate in central and northeast Arizona.

Most coal deposits  in the world were developed during the Carboniferous period.  Coal is mostly carbon accumulations from fossil plant material deposited in swamps so devoid of oxygen that bacteria and other critters couldn’t survive to feed on their remains. This implies that climate was warm and wet, and that the cyclic transgressions/regressions of the sea were relatively quick enough to bury the swamps before the luxuriant plant life could be destroyed.

Arizona coal was formed during the Cretaceous Period. It is mined in Navajo county, and, according to the Arizona Department of Mines and Mineral Resources, ranks second only to copper in economic importance.

Worldwide coal formation stripped the atmosphere of carbon dioxide. Beginning in mid- Devonian time, about 380 mya, through early Mississippian time, atmospheric carbon dioxide dropped from around 4,000 ppm to near current levels of 400 ppm by 340 million years ago. Temperature, however, remained high (about 68 F world average vs 57 F today). But near the Pennsylvania-Permian boundary time, about 270 million years ago, the planet was plunged into another ice age. Note the 70-million-year gap between lowered carbon dioxide and decreased temperature. By the end of the Permian, temperatures rose again to an average of about 63 F, soon followed by a rise in carbon dioxide to just under 3,000 ppm. (Rising temperature causes more carbon dioxide to be exsolved from the oceans.) Volcanism contributed to the rising carbon dioxide.

The first known land vertebrates, amphibians, appeared in late Paleozoic time. Devonian rocks contain fossils of amphibians called stegocephalians (roofed head) because of flat, broad heads. Most were one- to two inches long, but later forms became as large as a crocodile and most were probably carnivorous judging by the teeth.

Reptile fossils appear in Pennsylvanian rocks. The first were small like amphibians, but later Permian reptiles got up to eight feet long. One group, the Therapsids, had teeth differentiated into incisors, canines, and molars similar to present-day mammals.

The Permian ended with a mass extinction in which about 90% of species disappeared, including marine fauna, plants, and terrestrial animals. The reason for this extinction is unknown although there are many speculative theories. This extinction happened over a period of several million years and is coincident with the coalescing of continents and extensive volcanism.

When Pangea and Gondwana collided is reduced marine habitats and brought deep, oxygen-poor ocean water to near surface environments. Major volcanism, in what is now Siberia, lasted for about one million years and annually spewed billions of tons of sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. These two events are probably contributory to the extinctions.

But, with the dawning of the new Mesozoic era, life rebounded and became more diverse and more robust.

OmphalotrochusPHOTO: Omphalotrochus (snail) from the Permian Colina formation, collected about 2 miles southeast of the Tombstone airport. Notice also the pits made by rain drops differentially eroding the limestone.