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The curious incident of the man who paddled to Scotland

The man paddled into the estuary of the Don River, near Aberdeen. A strange sight he
was too, in his peculiar clothes and a boat that was not a boat. At least not the sort of boat
anyone had seen before, except in books. From 1690 AD to 1728 AD, Eskimos paddling
their kayaks had made similar visits to the Orkney Islands, 200 km farther north than
Aberdeen and only 900 km from Iceland; but this far south the appearance of an Eskimo
was cause for concern (Lamb, 1995). The problem was the sea had become too cold for
cod and the fisheries were failing. During the 20th century, ships could pass between
Greenland and Denmark; but in 1695, the worst year of the 17th century, sea ice
surrounded Iceland for many months and cold water extended far to the south and east.
Colder winters and cooler summers brought starvation not only to Icelanders, but to Scots
and Norwegians as well, and a century later caused the failure of the potato harvest in
Ireland and its depopulation. The cooling had started centuries before, but was to become
more persistent (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Variations in the occurrence of Arctic sea ice at the coasts of Iceland (20-year
averages), (Lamb, 1995)

In 1831, Charles Darwin embarked in the Beagle, a research ship, on a five-year voyage
around the world. In February 1843, while going ashore, Darwin’s boat passed alongside
a canoe with six Fuegans, “… the most abject and miserable creatures I anywhere beheld.
… At night, five or six human beings, naked and scarcely protected from the wind and
rain of this tempestuous climate, sleep on the wet ground coiled up like animals. … Their
skill in some respects may be compared to the instinct of animals; for it is not improved
by experience: the canoe, their most ingenious work, poor as it is, has remained the same
… for the last two hundred and fifty years” (Darwin, 1839). Darwin was aware that the
culture of the Fuegans was unsuited to the Antarctic conditions that then beset them; but
he was unaware that better conditions had prevailed centuries before. Cooling events
similar to those in the northern hemisphere had overwhelmed the Fuegans: the cooling
was global.

Such was the Little Ice-Age (LIA), a time when global cooling brought Arctic conditions
farther south and Antarctic conditions farther north, threatening the livelihoods of people
in both northern and southern hemispheres. The conventional timing for the LIA is from
about 1350 or 1450 to 1900, depending upon the method of measurement (Mayewski.
1995). Yet the data for sea ice shown in figure 1 suggests that the LIA cooling may have
started around 1200, followed by a short pause when temperatures rose briefly before
falling again. Ice core data from the GISP2 project confirms this as shown in figure 2.

Figure 2: Thousand-year-average Holocene surface-temperature histories for GISP2, central Greenland.


Summer temperatures are from Alley and Anandakrishnan. The deviation in July insolation from the 1950
value follows A. Berger. Zero on the timescale represents 1950 AD. (Source: Alley, 1999)

The GISP2 data suggests that temperature peaked around 3,000 years ago, dropped
rapidly after 2,000 years ago until about 500 AD, fluctuated until 750, fell again until
about 1000, rose slightly until about 1200 and fell to a minimum around 1650. The ice
core data from GISP2 appears to confirm the Icelandic sea-ice record, indicating that the
Little Ice Age began around 1200 AD, about the same time that climatic change gripped
central Asia, setting the stage for the Mongol conquests.
Many hypotheses have been proposed to account for climate change at millennial and
century timescales. Among the driving forces are:

• Changes in energy received from the sun


• Human activities

Changes in energy received from the sun, called insolation, might arise through blocking
of the sun’s rays by volcanic dust and other materials, by variations in the earth’s orbit
(Milankovic Cycles), and by variations in the sun’s intensity. Human activity might affect
climate through deforestation, draining of wetlands, planting of paddy rice, burning of
carbon fuels, and through release of pollutants into the environment. It is beyond the
scope of this report to review all of these factors. This report will examine cyclical
climate variability in the Holocene record and its implications.

Alley and others (1999) proposed Milankovic Cycles as the driver for reduced ocean heat
transport, inferred from the use of the isolation curve in figure 2 above, derived by the
astronomer A. Berger. The text refers to the, “… Imbrie interpretation of ice-age
cycles…,” a reference to Milankovic Cycles. For good reason the authors presented this
conclusion in such a timid manner. The shortest cycle for orbital forcing is the nominal
20,000-year cycle. If the LIA, is the down part of a cycle lasting about 450 years, that
would imply a full cycle of about 900 years, far too short to be explained by orbital
forcing. The data series presented in figure 2 terminates at 1750, thus it reveals nothing of
the last 250 years.

Bond and others (1997) examined two deep-sea cores from either side of the Atlantic
with core top ages less than 1,000 years and sufficient resolution to allow sampling with
an interval 50 to 100 years. Debris in the samples indicated periods of ice-rafting at
millennial scales with peaks at about 1400, 2800, 5900, 8100, 9400, 10,300 and 11,000
calendar years ago. The authors constructed a composite climatic record by extending
measurements of ice-rafted debris (IRD) back to about 32,000 years BP (figure 3A). The
authors found no statistical difference in the length of a short-term cycle during the
Holocene and during the glacial period, averaging 1470+/-532 years. They noted that this
is essentially the same cycle found in the GISP2 ice core, about 1450 years. The study
suggests that this short-term cycle is represented during the last glaciation by the
Dansgaard/Oeshger δ18 shifts. (See “GISP2 interstadial - stage 3” in figure 3 B). Spectral
analysis confirmed the existence and frequency of an 1800-year cycle, near the mean of
the two cycles inferred from graphical analysis (figure 3 C and D. The study implicates
ocean circulation as a major factor in forcing the climate signal, possibly through its
effect on thermohaline circulation, in turn affected by recurring additions of fresh water
(icebergs) into the ocean. The authors conclude that the cycle exists, that its length is
variable, averaging about 1470 years, and that its origin is still uncertain: possibly a
harmonic of orbital frequencies or variations in solar output.

While the authors marked the Little Ice Age with an open circle in figure 3A, their
concern was only to show that the timing of the cooling was consistent with the pattern of
cooling indicated by their analysis. If the LIA was the trough a 900-year cycle could it be
the same cycle as the 1374+/-502 years of the Holocene cycle?

Figure 3: A Timings from deep sea cores compared with GISP2 ice core data. The LIA is shown as an
open circle; other events are shown as black circles and open square boxes. The mean values
for the intervals between the symbols are given below the plots, as 1374 years for the
Holocene and 1535 years for the glacial period. B Histogram of Holocene IRD events and the
GISP2- OIS 3 interstdial. C Multitaper spectral analysis of the series of hematite-stained
grains, marking debris from the red beds of coastal Greenland and Svalbard. D Filtered
record of time series of hematite-stained grains.
The mean cycle length 900 years is about 0.95σ less than 1374 years (σ=502). That
means the cycle length for LIA is less than one standard deviation from the cycle length
identified in this study. This is not strong confirmation that the LIA is the same cycle,
however, the question could be approached in a different way. The cycle identified by
Bond and others for the Holocene was 1374 years, giving a half-cycle of 687 years.
Would it be reasonable to assign a length of 687 years to the LIA? Inspection of figure 1
indicates that it is not possible to be precise about the length of the LIA and that 687
years is no less appropriate than the conventional length assigned by Mayewski (1995).
The LIA might have started in 1200 AD and continued 700 years to about 1900.

Berger and others (2002) studied a 5000-year sequence of varves retrieved from the
continental slope of the Arabian Sea of the coast of Pakistan. They found high-frequency
cycles from 10 to 100 years and low-frequency cycles from 100 to 500 years and
evidence of the same 1470-year cycle noted in the Greenland ice data. They attributed a
large proportion of the cycles to tidal action. Citing Wunsch (2000), the authors stated
that sharply defined cycles as found in their data "imply sharply defined astronomic
forcing," because "internal oscillations of the climate system cannot produce them.” The
Modern Warm Period should be accepted for what it really is: the logical next phase of
the externally-forced millennial-scale oscillation of climate that has produced the Roman
Warm Period, the Dark Ages Cold Period, the Medieval Warm Period, the Little Ice Age
and, now, the Modern Warm Period, rather than changes in atmospheric CO2. The
authors appear to treat astronomical forcing as a default mechanism attributing to it at
least the 1470-year cycle and possibly other low frequency cycles.

Perhaps the short-term cycle that caused the LIA can be accounted for by variations in
solar output that affect insolation. Isotopes of chemical elements have different atomic
weights, such as carbon of atomic weight 14 (14C, or "radiocarbon"), found in tree-rings,
and beryllium of weight 10 (10Be) that is sequestered in polar ice deposits. Records of
both of these isotopes give indirect indications of solar activity for thousands of years in
the past revealing cycles of 2300, 210 and 88 years, as well as 11 years (Lean, 1996).

Paul Damon (2004) argues that recent studies have erred in attributing the Modern Warm
Period to sunspot activity. He stated, “If Friis-Christensen and Lassen [1991] had been
correct, there should have been 11 global warming events during that time equivalent to
the contemporaneous event. However, the current event is unique and obviously of
anthropogenic origin.” The graph supporting the conclusion has a dotted blue line
attributed to Jones and Moberg (2003) showing a temperature rise of about 0.8ºC since
about 1920, a date that corresponds with an industrial boom in the United States
(Colbourne, 1963). While, the author did not provide a reference for Jones and Moberg,
the Arctic Council and the International Arctic Science Committee have published a
report on their website using the Jones and Morberg data to produce a graph (figure 5).
This graph tells a different story from the blue line in figure 4. It is not clear why the
Jones and Moberg data should appear so differently in Damon’s paper and in the paper
prepared by McBean and others. But this is common in papers dealing with the Modern
Warm Period: researchers see more or less what they are looking for.
Figure 4:.Comparison of the variation of multi-proxy paleo-temperature reconstructions and instrumental
data with variations of solar cycle length (SCL).The SCL data (orange dots and thin orange
line) are from epochs of maxima and minima of the sunspot cycle. Note the large variations
from ca.7 to17 years are smoothed by a trapezoidal filter with weights of 1, 2, 2, 2, 1 (thick red
line).The results produce three maxima of what has been referred to as the Gleissberg
cycle.Fourier analysis of the INTCAL98 data demonstrates that the 88-year Gleissberg cycle
continues for at least 12,000 years [Peristykh and Damon, 2003]. Mann et al. [1999] have
extended northern hemisphere temperature estimates over the past millennium.
Figure 5: Temperature variations based on data provided by Jones, P.D. and A. Moberg, 2003 for the
period 1966-2003. Source: CRU time series, McBean et al.

The date in figure 5 might be interpreted differently, as follows. Jones and Moberg have
obtained data with two cycles, one around 20-year cycle and 80-year cycle. These cycles
may be the 88-year and 22-year sunspot cycles. The mismatch between the amplitudes of
the Jones-Moberg cycles (figure 5) and the sunspot cycles (figure 4) was explained by
McBean and others as polar amplification, defined as “relative rates of warming in the
Arctic versus other latitude bands.” McBean et al. concluded that, “Evidence of polar
amplification depends on the timescale of examination. Over the past 100 years, it is
possible that there has been polar amplification, however, over the past 50 years it is
probable that polar amplification has occurred.”

Conclusion

Possibly human activity is an important factor in global warming since 1900. A simpler
explanation would be that the Earth is still recovering from the Little Ice Age and that
human activity is a minor factor in global climate change. For how long the climate will
continue to warm and by how much is uncertain. If the past is any guide, the year 500
suggests a possible scenario (figure 2). Applied to the modern period, the scenario would
give 100 years of warming from 1900 to the present, 50 years of cooling to 2050, 50
years of warming to 2100, followed by 300 years of cooling.

Tell them in Iceland they will be icebound year round and in Scotland that Eskimos will
again paddle up the Don and they will pray for global warming. So shall we all.
References

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