She Blows Hot and Cold

haruhi

Here’s a big HELLO to all my netizen friends, trolls, and accidental-surfers!

Today we will be talking about global warming.  Except that it’s probably going to be global cooling.  But not until global warming happens, which will kill one billion of us people (that’s one-seventh of the world population, a very large number indeed).  But then global cooling will happen and then…

 THEN WE ALL DIE!!!

Haruhi2

We are getting hotter!  AND we are getting colder!  The heat will kill us!  AND the cold will kill us!  Everything will kill us!

WE ARE GONNA DIE!!!!

(…sigh)

Nobody can agree.  Nobody can even agree to disagree.  No wonder we’re all confused and arguing with each other.  We are looking at the situation, cross-eyed and without any fixed point of reference, so we end up seeing what we are able to see from the vantage point that we are stuck at.  This is not a good place to be for science, and yet, it is all we have.  This makes for a truly stressful situation.

Calgon, take me away!  Better yet—let some random extra-terrestrial take me away, off this rock, and then let me look at it from a distance so I can actually see where the problem lies.  I have found that if I look at a situation from a distance, things become clearer, less immediate, more generalized, less stressful, more solvable.

So, from what I can see, we are in for one of these two scenarios in the future.  Since I am not a psychic monkey, I can’t say exactly when, but the propensity for heading in one of these two directions is proportionally higher if certain things occur in proportionally significant amounts.

hotcoldearth

On the left, we have what’s called a Snowball Earth.  It is called a snowball Earth because it is completely (or almost completely) covered in ice, from pole to shining pole.  From space, it will look like a bright white billiard ball with blue veins of slush ocean and brown veins of jagged rock (tips of tall mountains) showing through the cracks.

On the right, we have a No Ice Earth.  No ice means no white stuff, either at the poles or on mountain tops.  This picture to the right is not quite correct, because with the huge influx of water that has melted from the poles, there will be somewhat of a loss of dry land, but the areas of dry land will be greener due to wetter conditions which will cause desserts to change into grasslands and tropical forests.

I can’t tell which side will win out.  Maybe we can have a poll about it.

Regardless of what your choices are, these are the two extremes—of which we are currently occupying a fairly happy middle ground.  I say ‘fairly happy’ because we’ve gotten used to the flux state, one in which the world is undergoing a rapidly changing state which could tip in either direction depending on lots of different variables.  Currently, we are enjoying an unusually long and benign stretch of interglacial, one which has allowed Earth to manifest itself as a garden of Eden.  It is not a fixed state, nor is it something to be taken for granted.  Earth will, one day, revert to its hellish, hostile state of extreme cold where nothing grows and nothing lives, except perhaps the tiniest of microbes.  I am not talking about possibilities which may or may not happen, because fact of the matter is, it has already happened several times in the life of Earth (that we know of).

At least twice in the distant past, there had been a snowball Earth phenomenon.  The first event, called Marinoan, occurred around 750 million years BCE and lasted between 6 and 12 million years.  The second event was called Sturtian and that one happened 710 million years BCE. [1]  During one of these snowball Earth events, temperatures would have been so low that the equator would be just as cold as Antarctica is today.  Had any nomadic bands of humans been alive at that time and in constant migration to maintain a distance between themselves and the encroaching ice would eventually find, in the far-off distance, the onslaught of ice coming to meet them.  They would have died of exposure and lack of food in the middle of the equatorial region, trapped between two bands of ice sheets meeting up in the middle.

Of course, the Marinoan and the Sturtian are just two of the most intense icy periods that scientists have been able to identify.  Scattered between 750 million years ago up until the present-time, there were many other glacial periods that were, although not as globally wide-spread, still fairly intense.  It is interesting to note that the two ice ages that humans have had to endure through nearly wiped us out, whereas during the interglacials (or interstitials, whichever they happened to be), we thrived and bloomed like runaway algae growths.  So, as far as I can tell, warm = good and cold = not so good.

Sure, we may not thrive quite as well if temperatures get a bit warmer.  Some of our low-lying areas may drown.  We may lose some valuable crop lands.  A billion of us may die due to weather-related stresses such as lack of food-sources and scarcity of fresh water.  But we can muddle through another interglacial.

We cannot muddle through another ice age.

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What we need to do then, is to figure out how to indefinitely extend the current interglacial period.  How to do that will take all the ingenuity that humankind can muster up, and even then…even then, we may fail.  But we have to give it a try.  We have to know, at the very least, what it will take to maintain the hair-trigger balance which will allow us to remain on this side of the thermal grid.  One thing is for sure.  We have not exceeded yet, our allotment for global CO2.  How much more do we need to add to the environment to maintain our interglacial?  Well, that’s another discussion for another day.

(Continue to The Heat is On—Barely)

1.  http://www.snowballearth.org/when.html

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4 thoughts on “She Blows Hot and Cold

  1. Every….single…National…Academy of Science has read the years of accumulated data in a science which originated in the 1600s and has been growing ever since and they ALL agree.

    Every… single… one.

    Global warming is real. It’s deadly. It’s because of us.

    The mirage of ‘debate’ and ‘uncertainty’ has been created by the multi-billion-dollar American think tanks and their paid-for media and hired ‘alternative opinion’ shysters. All bought and paid for.

    If you care about science – real science, which is data and that kind of solid reality, you can get the facts without being brain-washed by shock-jocks and the exact-same media campaign strategy that the very same think-tanks used to confuse the public about cigarettes, CFC’s and the ‘star-wars’ plan.

    This is just one site I like. There are others – not arguing for it, but it’s a good one. Disclosure – I’m a former industrial archaeologist who requalified in chemistry of the environment. Why? Cos I care.

    so try this guy’s site- see if you like it.

    skepticalscience.com

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  2. Hi Diane, thanks for your response. I read through both sides and I agree with you that we humans are contributing to global warming. I’m just wondering if that isn’t such a bad thing, especially since we’re due for another ice age any day now. I am not asking an idle question. I really want to know how we can maintain an indefinite interstitial temperature range if the natural trend for Earth is to slide back into an ice age.

    Obviously, global temperature change is not dependent on human-influenced activities if it’s happened over and over in the Earth’s distant past, during times when we were still barely Orrorins. If we go back 350K years ago, there was a deadly ice age. Fast forward to 170K BCE and there’s another deadly one that nearly wiped us out. These ice ages are long and tortuous, whereas the interglacials are brief and punctuated on both ends with wild population surges and declines.

    I may be wrong, but I think we have inadvertently lengthened our interstitial warm period by the activities that we are doing. I do agree that we need to understand more about how to control the weather patterns so that we don’t slip into another ice age. Don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating for the wholesale slaughter of our planet’s resources. That was something done by the generation before mine, and now it is my generation and the immediate generation after, who are left holding the empty bag and trying to figure out how to fix this mess that we have been left with.

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  3. Dear TaoBabe
    It comes down to chemistry. We know that we have created the current global warming, and precisely because we can map the past sequences and work out what happened, and why.

    Because we are burning fossil fuels at a phenomenal rate, we are undoing the balancing mechanism by which CO2 was taken from the atmosphere and stored in the earth, locked into such organic matter as oil and wood.

    That’s what made the planet habitable enough for us to develop and evolve as a species. The whole system – not just weather – is part of the delicate web of life. By releasing within a period of little more than 2 centuries an amount of CO2 which had taken millions of years to be safely locked away, we have triggered not just ‘weather’ but a chain reaction which is affecting every aspect of our environment, from the small organisms that help plants absorb nutrients from the soil to the level of acidity in the oceans, whose ability to store excess CO2 we have very nearly exhausted, just as irresponsible trawling nets have destroyed the ecological balance, and the food reserves of the sea.

    The problem is not the planet’s survival – it is our own. The balance is already past the tipping point. We will go – and it’s our own fault – long before the next ice-age.

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