ice age
© Unknown
Are you worried about global warming during this unusually mild winter? Geeze, who would have expected to see 75º F March temperatures in Chicago? Or those earlier than usual cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C. which hasn't happened since 1946 (albeit, when atmospheric CO2 concentrations were 310 ppm vs. 385 ppm now)? Even regions of the Southern Hemisphere had a year with practically no winter temperatures.

So was Al Gore right after all? Perhaps you heard...he's been off to Antarctica watching the ice melt along with NASA's famous climate alarmist James Hansen, featured ClimateGate figure Kevin Trenberth, billionaire Richard Branson and about 100 other panicky pals. Their timing is perfect, offering a lot for them to observe. The Antarctic Peninsula sea ice expanse is nearly 200% greater now than usual.

For those of you here who would have preferred more typical sub-zero temperatures and rampaging tag team blizzards, I've also got some great news. While these conditions bypassed the continental U.S. this year for other locations, don't discard those flannel long johns just yet. There's every indication that you are going to need them over the next many years.

First, for a bit of background perspective, let's realize that climate change is very real, and has been going on for a very long back to always. It actually began to occur even before the advent of flatulent dinosaurs, industrial smoke stacks and SUVs. And although temperatures have been generally mild over about the past 150 years (since the end of the last "Little Ice Age"...not a true Ice Age), we should remember that significant fluctuations are normal. In fact the past century has witnessed two distinct periods of warming.

The first warming period occurred between 1900 and 1945. Since CO2 levels were relatively low then compared with now, and didn't change much, they couldn't have been the cause before 1950. The second, following a slight cool-down, began in 1975 and rose at quite a constant rate until 1998, a strong Pacific Ocean El Nino year. Yet U.K. Hadley Center and U.S. NOAA balloon instrument analyses fail to show any evidence, whatsoever, of a human CO2 emission-influenced warming telltale "signature" in the upper troposphere over the equator as predicted by all U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) global circulation models.

Temperatures have been essentially flat since 1998, with the exception of another brief 2010 El Nino spike immediately followed by a dramatic 2011 La Nina decline. About half of all estimated warming since 1900 occurred before the mid-1940s despite continuously rising CO2 levels since that time.

Our warm 2011/2012 U.S. winter would have been a very welcome difference from what much of world experienced. A European cold spell killed more than 500. More than 140 perished in the Ukraine, along with hundreds of others in France, Serbia and the Czech Republic. Europe's 2,860-kilometer Danube that is crucial for transport, power, industry and fishing froze over, as did nearly all rivers in the Balkans. More than 130 villages in Bulgaria went without electricity.

Closer to those of us in the lower forty-eight, Fairbanks, Alaska reported the coldest January temperatures since 1971, with temperatures reaching -24º F. The coldest January average temperature there occurred in 1906 (-36.4º F).

Recent readings taken from more than 30,000 measuring stations that were quietly released by the U.K.'s Met Office and the University of East Anglia University Climate Research Unit show that world temperatures haven't warmed over the past 15 years. Nor are they likely to for quite awhile. Many scientific studies indicate that the global climate will soon enter a substantial cooling phase attributable to a weak new solar cycle. This is predicted due to important modulating cloud-forming influences of cosmic rays throughout periods of reduced sunspot activity. More clouds tend to make conditions cooler, while fewer often cause warming.

Solar output typically goes through 11-year cycles, with high numbers of sunspots seen at their peak. We are currently approaching the peak of "Cycle-24", yet sunspot numbers are running at less than half of those observed during other 20th century peaks. A paper released by the Met Office projected a 92% chance that both Cycle-25, and those taking place in following decades, will be as weak, or weaker than, a "Dalton minimum" of 1790 to 1830, when average European temperatures fell by 2º Celsius.

Nicola Scafetta, a climate scientist at Duke University and the Active Cavity Radiometer Solar Irradiance Monitor Lab (ACRIM), told me that doesn't think that we will see a severe "Maunder minimum", or even Dalton minimum-like conditions because the Sun is presently at the maximum of its 1,000-year cycle, a condition similar to that which produced the two century-long Medieval Warm Period. However, the Sun is now entering into a grand minimum most likely described by a strong 60-year cycle, with maxima occurring around 2000 and 2060. Scafetta predicts that there will be steady but moderate cooling over the next 20 to 30 years (more or less). His new paper which discusses this... published last week in the Journal of Atmospheric and Solar Terrestrial Physics... is based upon a solar data reconstruction since 10,000 BC.

The Met Office claims that the greenhouse effects of man-made carbon dioxide are far stronger than the Sun's influences, sufficiently so not only to overwhelm potential solar cooling, but to produce net warming. These findings are fiercely disputed by solar experts. They point out that the Met's assessment is based upon highly theoretical climate models that exaggerate CO2 influence, while failing to account for numerous other important contributing factors. For example, as CO2 levels have continued to rise, the Met Office claimed in 2007 that global warming was about to "come roaring back", predicting an overall 0.3º C temperature increase between 2004 and 2014. Then, in 2009, it predicted that at least three of the years between 2009 and 2014 would break the previous 1998 temperature record. That doesn't appear very likely.

Since they couldn't directly emulate the global surface temperature, the Met's 2009 prediction is based instead upon a simple "energy balance model" (EBM) they used to emulate a fully coupled atmospheric ocean "general circulation model" (GCM). However, the GCM they applied to calibrate their EBM (the "HadCM3"), didn't contain any solar climate amplification factors (such as cosmic ray/cloud feedback influences)...hence, showed very limited climate sensitivity to solar variations. This is a novel and very creative example of "garbage in-garbage out" modeling wizardry, where a climate model, used to model another climate model, is claimed to have realistic predictive validity.

Judith Curry, a well-known climatologist who chairs the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, finds the Met's confident prediction of a "negligible" solar impact "difficult to understand". She has stated that "The responsible thing to do would be to accept the fact that the models may have severe shortcomings when it comes to the influence of the Sun". As for a predicted warming pause, she said that many scientists "are not surprised."

Curry also notes important contributions of 60-year Pacific and Atlantic Ocean temperature cycles, observing that they have been "insufficiently appreciated in terms of global climate". When both oceans were cold in the past, such as from 1940 to 1970, the climate cooled. The Pacific "flipped" back from a warm to a cold mode in 2008, and the Atlantic is also thought likely to flip back in the next few years.

Habibullo Abdussamatov, a scientist at the Pulkovo Observatory at the Russian Academy of Science in St. Petersburg, predicts that our planet is now entering a very cold and protracted climate phase. He believes that "after the maximum of solar Cycle-24, from approximately 2014, we can expect the start of the next bicentennial cycle of deep cooling with a Little Ice Age in 2055 plus or minus 11 years" (the 19th to occur in the past 7,500 years).

Another Little Ice Age? If you have been worried about man-made global warming, just think about that! While improbable, let's really hope the Met Office is actually right for a change, and that good ol' plant-nourishing CO2 will rescue us from such a truly chilling prospect.