April 24, 2004 7:16 AM   Subscribe

Time to pull out the giant salt shaker - Evidence supporting Abrupt Climate Change theory builds (from a new study published in Nature Magazine, April 22 2004) : "Rate of Ocean Circulation Directly Linked to Abrupt Climate Change - A new study strengthens evidence that the oceans and climate are linked in an intricate dance, and that rapid climate change may be related to how vigorously ocean currents transport heat from low to high latitudes....(From the ever superb NASA Earth Observatory)
posted by troutfishing (41 comments total)
My research suggests to me that one of the two following conclusions is more likely than the other :

A) This involves a vast, pervasive conspiracy - so shadowy as to be totally undetectable but nonetheless highly effective - run by the Morton Salt company, which has secretly paid off countless scientists (the whole scientific establishment, really) to speak with a single voice about Sudden Climate Change. Morton aims for the implementation of a humungous federal pork barrel project to spend billions dumping salt into the North Atlantic.

2) I'd be smart to shave off my sharp liberal edges, buy a gun, work on my drawl, and start looking at real estate in Texas.
posted by troutfishing at 7:29 AM on April 24, 2004

posted by troutfishing at 7:31 AM on April 24, 2004

Not to belittle the importance of climate change (I know climate change has a bit of a bruised ego), but is it just me who has seen this and other recent posts and thought there is a decent chance it's because of this http://www.thedayaftertomorrowmovie.com/ ?

sorry too early to work on my nonexistant html skills.
posted by efalk at 7:34 AM on April 24, 2004

> 2) I'd be smart to shave off my sharp liberal edges, buy a gun, work on my
> drawl, and start looking at real estate in Texas.

Works for me, at about the same latitude. Here's what you can expect.

The climate was cold and dry during the most intense part of the Ice Age north of 33 degrees latitude-a straight line passing from near Charleston, South Carolina to just north of Macon, Georgia and just south of La Grange, Georgia. Spruce, fir, and jack pine trees dominated the forests in an environment similar to southern Canada today. Forests were separated by many open fields where herbs and shrubs thrived.

The forests were changing before PaleoIndians arrived. The climate warmed and became moister, as the Ice Age moved into its final centuries. In the area north of 33 degrees latitude, hardwoods such as oak, hickory, beech, and birch gained mastery by 12,000 years ago as the spruce and firs retreated north. Remnants of the spruce forests of long ago still exist in enclaves high in the Appalachian mountains. When the PaleoIndians arrived in Georgia and Alabama, the weather north of 33 degrees latitude was still considerably colder than today. Winter hit the area hard, resembling the climate NewYork state experiences.

There's a skeleton of a giant ground sloth in the lobby of the University of Georgia science library. Oh, and we still have plenty of chert deposits for chipping out your spearpoints.
posted by jfuller at 8:12 AM on April 24, 2004

efalk, the movie follows the footsteps of the theory. I don't think NASA is in the pocket of the movie producers if that is what you mean.

One thing about this particular report, all they are saying is that they have further evidence of fluctuations in the ocean currents causing weather changes. They say "One big question is why the circulation would collapse in the first place and possibly trigger abrupt climate change." .. this report doesn't address that Question.
posted by stbalbach at 8:12 AM on April 24, 2004

Interesting link troutfishing, although I must confess that I'm waiting for the library to send me Bjorn Lomborg's The Skeptical Environmentalist (only about 4 years after everyone else read it I know) in order to make up my own mind on this issue.

When I saw the title of this post I assumed that it had something to do with slugs - aren't the leaps of faith the mind makes sometimes strange?
posted by dmt at 8:15 AM on April 24, 2004

efalk - you can do that like this : (a href="http://www.thedayaftertomorrowmovie.com/" ) the name of your link goes here (/a) except that, in place of the "(" and ")" symbols, you use the "<" symbol and it's converse.

To address your question : there's a connection, yes. But it's exactly the opposite of what you are implying. NASA and Nature do not work pre-publicity for Hollywood.

Hollywood picked up on this scientific story - which has been breaking for the better part of a decade as research into Sudden Climate Change progressed - and sensationalized it.

What you are suggesting is that 1) Hollywood controls the world scientific establishment and 2) Hollywood begins pre-publicity for it's films about ten years in advance of their release.

That's quite a conspiracy going on there. If you believe that, I have other news for you :

"Geocentrism: Was Galileo Wrong?

Was the Copernican revolution a mistake? Do the stars orbit the earth once a day rather than the earth turning on its axis? Does the sun really revolve around the earth instead of the earth around the sun? Some Christians in the young earth creationist camp think so, in spite of serious scientific problems. Their view is called geocentrism. Scientists have considered the view such a dead issue that its refutation has not generally been taught in science courses for over a century. But these geocentrists claim that since the Bible talks about the sun rising and the earth standing still, we should take these statements in their simplest meaning in spite of science, and believe that the earth is at the center of the universe."

But whatwhatwhat ? What's this "Climate Change Bruised Ego" stuff ? And I hope I haven't bruised your ego too much. it's really not personal, believe me.
posted by troutfishing at 8:19 AM on April 24, 2004

No, I'm just suggesting that these stories are (and will be) getting a bit more attention than they usually do. Not that it's a bad thing, and NASA is pretty trustworthy in my book.
posted by efalk at 8:25 AM on April 24, 2004

efalk - [ I'm a big NASA fan too ] I think that's a good thing, given the possible consequences. In fact, North Atlantic circulation is down about 30% in the last two decades - although it's not known how much of this is part of a natural cycle and how much is driven by climate change. But the trend doesn't look good. Thirty or forty years ago, the thermohaline current was so regular that scientists could use it to calibrate their instruments (so I've read). But no more.

The current seems to be coughing - growing less regular and slowing.


dmt - Oh. You were thinking the post was about an invasion of giant slugs! Heh heh.

[ Scene : din of battle, smoke, arcs of tracers, hellish unearthly screams as from ENORMOUS SLUGS! ]

[ unnamed soldier, slightly wounded, breathing heavily ] "Captain, SIR! Shells won't stop them. SIR!"

[ captain, played by an aging Mel Gibson ] "Where's that damn scientist? He was saying something about salt....why, why has my God forsaken me?"

[ Giant slug rears up, squashes the disconsolate Gibson ]

jfuller - massachoossetts 'Librul, born 'n bred. But I've stopped viewing gun ownership as the font of all evil in the world, and I also happen to like many aspects of southern culture better than their northern counterparts. And I like drawls - I pick 'em up fast, too. It's frightening. Thanks for the paleoclimate link.

Big sloths. heheh - Almost like slugs, I guess.
posted by troutfishing at 8:41 AM on April 24, 2004

stbalbach - I've gotten the sense that the mechanisms that could cause the circulation to collapse are a little better understood than how this collapse triggers an amplified climate shift - that is, what sort of feedback mechanisms might account for the speed and size of the Younger Dryas shifts.

Superstorm! Frozen Mammoths! Superstorm! Woo woo! [ beats back a viciously advancing Whitley Strieber wielding sensationalized potboilers ]

No seriously - increased atmospheric heat transport WOULD be one factor, but that doesn't really tell us much.

Fill in the blanks :

1) Ocean circulation slows or stops.

2) ?

3) Disaster!
posted by troutfishing at 8:50 AM on April 24, 2004

So can we fix the circulation and flow? giant fans underwater? pumps? anything?
posted by amberglow at 8:55 AM on April 24, 2004

> 1) Ocean circulation slows or stops.
> 2) ?
> 3) Disaster!

I'll bet there's a movie in it.
posted by jfuller at 8:58 AM on April 24, 2004

4) PP blames it all on amoral, depraved amberglow.
posted by quonsar at 8:59 AM on April 24, 2004

this is a bit off-topic, but troutfishing is my favorite poster.
posted by mcsweetie at 9:01 AM on April 24, 2004

AS for what can cause a drop in ocean salinity there's two main suspected culprits, as I recall. #1 The increased melting of iceburgs/Icesheets and #2 Large freshwater arctic lakes breaking out and flooding into the North Atlantic, both of which are usually linked to a warming climate. If I'm not mistaken one of the last Ice Ages coincides with a freshwater flood. Not sure but I think it was the mini ice age we had about 1000 years ago.
posted by Hilfy at 9:11 AM on April 24, 2004

jfuller, it's like this:

1) Ocean circulation slows or stops.
2) ?
3) Disaster! - the movie (opens July 4, 2006)
4) Profit!!!
posted by zpousman at 9:13 AM on April 24, 2004

Oh, and troutfishing, we'll be waiting for you down here in GA. Guns, drawls, and grits; three things that can get you three any little ol' ice age.

I like my grits with cheese and tabasco sauce.
posted by zpousman at 9:16 AM on April 24, 2004

From what I have heard the #2 in these scenarios is this...

Ocean circulation stops, which then drasticly hinders or stops the atmospheric jet flow, and while there's a pro and a con for airlines, that's a bad thing as weather systems could theoreticly just form up as localized, permanent fixtures.
posted by efalk at 9:18 AM on April 24, 2004

4) PP blames it all on amoral, depraved amberglow.
It's true--you know that saying about how a butterfly flapping its wings in Japan causes a tidal wave in California? Well, a long time ago, I dropped a cigarette butt in the Hudson.

It obviously got stuck in some important thing somewhere down in the ocean--or something. ; >
posted by amberglow at 9:33 AM on April 24, 2004

you bastage!
posted by quonsar at 10:38 AM on April 24, 2004

Waiting for some dumbass to say how it's the coldest day he can remember in XXXX town today.
posted by 2sheets at 10:50 AM on April 24, 2004

god damn, its so hot in my apartment today, this has to be true
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 11:26 AM on April 24, 2004

NASA's being gagged because of the movie, according to Drudge.
posted by amberglow at 11:39 AM on April 24, 2004

This post brought to you by the same people that 5 years ago weren't convinced global warming was real.

Filp. Flop. Filp. Flop.

I still don't buy it. Science might be ever changing, but this is absolutely ridiculous. Either measuring instruments for weather are made in China (with love), there's conspiracies in the various earth movements to make governments do their bidding, circumventing normal democratic processes, or nobody can really predict the weather.

I think I'll go for the last one. It's the only thing that's been constant for the past few millennia.
posted by shepd at 11:50 AM on April 24, 2004

zpousman - I'm with you if you throw some black beans into the mix.

amberglow - Goddamn. That's so frickin' predictably ugly. Playing politics with a minor doomsday scenario. Evil folk, those. Evil with horns, big fangs, a red suit, a pitchfork, and a clap of sulphur. Evil like Linda Balir turning her head 360 degrees around, vomiting, and screaming "Damien, Damien....Your mother sucks cocks in HELL!" Evil like the Holocaust.


As for the solution - well, other than turning back the clock on Global Warming....as I hinted : a giant salt shaker! (literally) - more later, after I go to the dump (before it closes)

1) mcsweetie - thanks. that's worth more than anything in this thankless racket.

2) ?

3) Profit!
posted by troutfishing at 11:50 AM on April 24, 2004

black eyed peas.. on new years.. and if you like Grits theres one place to get the real thing. Got some in my freezer now, waiting for apocalypse.
posted by stbalbach at 12:12 PM on April 24, 2004

stbalbach - there's something really lyrical about that :

"Grits for the apocalypse"

shepd - John Christy works at NASA, yes. But he is not NASA in the flesh. Also, I'm not really sure about your "filp. flop. filp. flop" links are supposed to suggest. The first one, the newsweek story from 1975 (hosted on the Website of the Global Climate Coalition*

Meanwhile - the claim that scientists were predicting an immanent ice age in the 1970's is largely a myth. - W. M. Connolley maintains a page on this subject with related material and an open challenge for anyone to provide him with contradictory evidence (from Connolley's site : "To clarify a little: I am interested in "Was an imminent Ice Age predicted in the '70's by scientists, in scientific journals?". That means articles in scientific journals and reputable books. I am not particularly interested in what appeared in the popular press or on TV and do not intend to discuss it here (but see context), since I do not regard these as reliable sources for scientific information. We also need to know what we mean by "imminent". Since the question arises in the context of the greenhouse gas/climate change debate, "imminent" is a timescale comparable to greenhouse-type timescales: ie, the next century or so."

"Some stark claims were made. In 1971 the journal Science reported that if atmospheric aerosol concentrations increased eightfold, then the subsequent cooling "if sustained over a period of several years _ is believed to be sufficient to trigger an ice age." The threat of a nuclear winter at that time - with dust from an atomic explosion blocking out the sun - weighed heavily on the public's mind, so it is easy to see where headlines about a future ice age came from. Dr Connolley has studied the issue of whether an imminent ice age was predicted in the 70s and believes that the argument depends on how you define "imminent".

"If you work on greenhouse-type timescales then 'imminent' means the next century or so," he says. "In this case, the scientific papers from the 70s show no evidence of predictions of an 'imminent' ice age." Nigel Calder, former editor of New Scientist and atmospheric researcher disagrees. In his book The Weather Machine, published in 1974, he wrote: "One might argue that there is a virtual certainty of the next ice age starting some time in the next 2000 years. Then the odds are only about 20-to-1 against it beginning in the next 100 years."

As the debate continued, it became clear that the greenhouse effect of CO< ->2 overrides the cooling force of aerosols. The 30-year northern hemisphere cooling trend stopped in the 70s, and scientists realized that if temperatures of the southern hemisphere were included in their models, then no global pattern of cooling was observed anyway. Does the fact that some scientists predicted the wrong trend in the 70s mean that the international consensus about the current warming trend could be misguided too?

[ From a UK Guardian story on Dr. Connolley, who works as a climate modeler for the British government ] "The volume of evidence for the greenhouse effect today far exceeds that available for global cooling in the 70s," says Dr Connolley. "You didn't find government ministers going to a meeting about global cooling like they went to the Kyoto global warming summit." But the "Ice Age is Coming" headlines of the 70s have an important modern resonance - sceptics use them to discredit global warming theories. In the 1999 Reith Lecture, Anthony Giddens said that "only about 25 or so years ago, orthodox scientific opinion was that the world was in a phase of cooling. Much the same evidence that was deployed to support the hypothesis of global cooling is brought into play to bolster that of global warming - heat waves, cold spells, unusual types of weather."

While Prof Giddens has a point, it is untrue to suggest that the scientific consensus about global cooling was anything like that in favour of global warming today. And the next ice age? The earth has been oscillating between long glacial periods about every 100,000 years. Will it do so again? Dr Connolley says, "Without any human interference, there would certainly be an ice age at some point in the future. But inputs of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere have almost certainly overridden any effects of orbit-related cooling for the next few hundred years."

The emergence of the new "Sudden Climate Change" story/research is completely congruent with what was known in the 1970's about climate and the Ice Ages.

Science merely progressed, and learned new things. Methods improved, new ones were invented, and dramatically more precise resolution of the earth's historical temperature record became possible.

The Earth's long term Ice Age cycles were well known before the 1970's. But the dramatic speed with which - it is now known - the Earth's climate can fluctuate was not known (and was barely even suspected) before the 1990's.

There are no "filp flops" here, and no grand conspiracies by scientists to disinform the public - this is a typical story, really, of the steady and incremental progression (with occasional breakthroughs) of scientific knowledge.


*here's a little bit about the Global Climate Coalition , from PR Watch's Disinfopedia : "The Global Climate Coalition (GCC) was one of the most outspoken and confrontational industry groups in the United States battling reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Prior to its disbanding in early 2002, it collaborated extensively with a network that included industry trade associations, "property rights" groups affiliated with the anti-environmental Wise Use movement, and fringe groups such as Sovereignty International, which believes that global warming is a plot to enslave the world under a United Nations-led "world government......In 1989, the United Nations created the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The members of the IPCC are governments. At approximately five-year intervals, the IPCC assembles a group of some 2,500 climate scientists from throughout the world to evaluate the evidence linking anthropogenic greenhouse gas and other emissions (such as particulates) to global climate change. The Global Climate Coalition was created in 1989, shortly after the IPCC's first meeting.

The GCC operated until 1997 out of the offices of the National Association of Manufacturers. Its early members included Amoco, the American Forest & Paper Association, American Petroleum Institute, Chevron, Chrysler, Cyprus AMAX Minerals, Exxon, Ford, General Motors, Shell Oil, Texaco, and the United States Chamber of Commerce.

For PR and lobbying, the GCC has employed "Junkman" Steven Milloy's former employer, the EOP Group, as well as the E. Bruce Harrison Company, a subsidiary of the giant Ruder Finn PR firm. Within the public relations industry, Harrison is an almost legendary figure who is ironically considered "the founder of green PR" because of his work for the pesticide industry in the 1960s, when he helped lead the attack on author Rachel Carson and her environmental classic, Silent Spring.

GCC activities have included publication of glossy reports, aggressive lobbying at international climate negotiation meetings, and raising concern about unemployment that it claims would result from emissions regulations. It distributed a video to hundreds of journalists claiming that increased levels of carbon dioxide will increase crop production and help feed the hungry people of the world. In the lead up to the Earth Summit at Rio de Janeiro in 1992, the GCC and other industry interests successfully lobbied the US government to avoid mandatory emissions controls.

In 1997, the GCC responded to international global warming treaty negotiations in Kyoto, Japan by launching an advertising campaign in the US against any agreement aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions internationally. This was run through an organization called the Global Climate Information Project (GCIP), which was sponsored by the GCC and the American Association of Automobile Manufacturers, among others. The GCIP was represented by Richard Pollock, a former director of Ralph Nader's group, Critical Mass, who switched sides to become a senior vice president for Shandwick Public Affairs, the second-largest PR firm in the United States. (Recent Shandwick clients include Browning-Ferris Industries, Central Maine Power, Georgia-Pacific Corp., Monsanto Chemical Co., New York State Electric and Gas Co., Ciba-Geigy, Ford Motor Company, Hydro-Quebec, Pfizer, and Procter & Gamble.)

GCIP's ads were produced by Goddard*Claussen/First Tuesday, a California-based PR firm whose clients include the Chlorine Chemistry Council, the Chemical Manufacturers Association, DuPont Merck Pharmaceuticals, and the Vinyl Siding Institute. Goddard*Claussen is notorious for its "Harry and Louise" advertisement that helped derail President Clinton's 1993 health reform proposal. Its anti-Kyoto advertisements falsely claimed, "It's Not Global and It Won't Work." They also claimed that "Americans will pay the price. . . 50 cents more for every gallon of gasoline." Actually, there was no treaty at that point, and no government proposals, then or now, have suggested a "50 cent" gallon gas tax.

By 1997, the growing scientific and public consensus regarding global warming forced a number of GCC supporters to reconsider the negative PR implications of their involvement in a group that was increasingly recognized as a self-serving anti-environmental front group. BP/Amoco withdrew from GCC after BP's chairman admitted that "the time to consider the policy dimensions of climate change is not when the link between greenhouse gases and climate change is conclusively proven, but when the possibility cannot be discounted and is taken seriously by the society of which we are part. We in BP have reached that point." Other prominent companies that have publicly abandoned GCC include American Electric Power, Dow, Dupont, Royal Dutch Shell, Ford, Daimler Chrysler, Southern Company, Texaco and General Motors.

In March 2000, GCC announced a "strategic restructuring" designed to "bring the focus of the climate debate back to the real issues." Under the restructuring, individual companies were no longer asked to join the GCC. Instead, membership would be limited to "only trade associations" and "other like-minded organizations." By seeking support from trade associations instead of individual companies, GCC hoped to create a layer of deniability so that affected industries could continue to support its campaign of global warming denial while avoiding boycotts and other public campaigns against individual companies.

The GCC disbanded in early 2002, explaining that it "has served its purpose by contributing to a new national approach to global warming. The Bush administration will soon announce a climate policy that is expected to rely on the development of new technologies to reduce greenhouse emissions, a concept strongly supported by the GCC." After years spent denying that greenhouse emissions were a serious environmental problem, the organization's parting shot at history combined a tacit admission that it had been wrong all along, along with an endorsement of the George W. Bush admistration's proposal for ineffective "voluntary" industry measures to address the problem."

posted by troutfishing at 1:18 PM on April 24, 2004

My quoting there got a bit garbled. Sorry.

Anyway, here is a superb introduction to the topic of Rapid Climate Change - probably the best, overall, I've ever encountered

"Rapid Climate Change

By the 20th century, scientists had rejected old tales of world catastrophe, and were convinced that global climate could change only gradually over many tens of thousands of years. But in the 1950s, a few scientists found evidence that some changes in the past had taken only a few thousand years. During the 1960s and 1970s other data, supported by new theories and new attitudes about human influences, reduced the time a change might require to hundreds of years. Many doubted that such a rapid shift could have befallen the planet as a whole. But the 1980s and 1990s brought proof (chiefly from studies of ancient ice) that the global climate could indeed shift, radically and catastrophically, within a century — perhaps even within a decade.

This essay covers large one-way jumps of climate. For short-term cyclical changes, see the essay on The Variable Sun. A shorter and generalized story of "the discovery of rapid climate change" is available as an article in Physics Today.

"Many climate changes are well described as relatively small deviations from a reference state, often assumed to be in equilibrium... [But this] linear approach does not hold for abrupt climate change, in which a small forcing can cause a small change or a huge one..." — National Academy of Sciences, 2002.(1) "
posted by troutfishing at 1:31 PM on April 24, 2004

Oh, my flip flop argument is that the science behind the upcoming apocolypse changes completely every couple of years.

Let's see what we, in modern society, have previously accepted as the apocolypse of the near future (this is over the past... oh... 30 years or so):

- Frozen to death
- Melted to death
- Suffocated by fumes
- Tsunamied to death
- Exctincted to death*
- Infected to death
- Not infected enough leading to fragility to death
- Nuclear winter death
- Irradiated by cellphones/power lines/etc to death
- Death through oil wars
- Asteroid death
- Garbage/landfill death (I can't even remember how that worked, but it was the excuse teachers used to make us go on garbage picking rampages in grade 3)

Most of which are all environmental theories supported as to how we die. There's probably a bunch of other ones that I've missed. Up to now, not a single one has come true.

Yes, that newsweek article is hosted there. Somehow I don't expect newsweek to be giving away back issues, do you? Global cooling was a massively accepted apocolypse at one point and isn't now.

It's easy to dismiss a major scare as a myth once you're a proven liar (not you, the idiot pseudo-scientists that can't keep their mouths shut in front of a camera). It's like an Apple zealot dismissing how Apples isn't really funded by Microsoft because over time that funding doesn't add up to much. It's a joke. You can't dismiss what happened. And you can't cover it up when it was such a MAJOR discovery MAJOR news magazines covered the event. Don't deny it. The proof is right there, and unless you believe that the NewsWeek article is fraudulent and doesn't actually exist, then just accept it and move on.

* - Explanation: As species go extinct, supposedly we will eventually need to be dependant on one, and it won't be there.
posted by shepd at 2:06 PM on April 24, 2004

Scandinavia, who without the Gulf Stream will have the same climate as northern Siberia, is not amused.
posted by spazzm at 8:05 PM on April 24, 2004

Well, heck. If the Earth is going to turn into a ball of ice, OR desertify until Alaska looks like Oklahoma, but under water, the ONLY logical thing to do is move to Mars.

Those Martian girls really knock me out.
posted by kablam at 8:06 PM on April 24, 2004

"....the science behind the upcoming apocolypse changes completely every couple of years." - shepd, don't you mean "...my perception of what popular media says about scientific statements, as filtered through think tank website talking points."?

Science, as a rule, does not make statements about "apocolypse". Think tanks do, and religious leaders do as well. But scientists who talk about the coming "apocolypse" are not doing real science, and they tend to get laughed off the podium at conferences and symposia.

"Global cooling was a massively accepted apocolypse at one point and isn't now." - Massively accepted by whom? I was born in the late 60's, and I don't recall any massive societal acceptance of this idea. It was entrenched in popular culture, sure -

"Dark Ages

Darlings are you ready for the long winter's fall ?
said the lady in her parlour
said the butler in the hall.
Is there time for another ?
said the drunkard in his sleep.
Not likely
said the little child. What's done
the Lord can keep.
And the vicar stands a-praying
And the television dies
as the white dot flickers and is gone
and no-one stops to cry....."
[ Jethro Tull, "Stormwatch", 1979 ]

But rock stars are not scientists. So once again, let me challenge your talking point :

Was an imminent Ice Age predicted in the '70's? - No.

If you can find me a reference saying otherwise, I'll put it here.

posted by troutfishing at 9:29 PM on April 24, 2004

kablam - ["the ONLY logical thing to do is move to Mars"] - or maybe the only logical thing to do is to be logical?
posted by troutfishing at 9:31 PM on April 24, 2004

spazzm- Scandinavia had better get off it's ass and take action. It could start by funneling $ to better inform those Americans who have been bombarded by US right wing think tank propaganda.


posted by troutfishing at 9:36 PM on April 24, 2004

troutfishing, the fact that site you cite exists is prima-facie evidence that there were a LOT of societal acceptance of an imminent ice-age.

If everyone were ignoring the issue, then that site wouldn't need to exist, would it?

Or is it just there for little old me? I hope so! That'd be a neat trick!
posted by shepd at 11:07 PM on April 24, 2004

shepd - so do you think that rock musicians are scientists? I'm fond of Jethro Tull, sure, but still.......

if you have any good material to submit, William Connolley is waiting
posted by troutfishing at 11:16 PM on April 24, 2004

The first time I heard about it was around 1995(?) when Woods Hole released the initial reports of possible ocean circulation slowdown leading to possible cold temps. I don't think there was anyone gathering the data before that.
posted by stbalbach at 10:11 AM on April 25, 2004

stbalbach - You're generally right - that was when the story began to break out - from a tiny circle of oceanographers and climatologists and into the wider scientific community and then into public awareness. I think I encountered it in '98.

But Wallace Broeker was onto it much earlier : "In his article "Unpleasant Surprises in the Greenhouse", the American climatologist Wallace Broecker warned in 1987 that due to the greenhouse effect, man might cause the Atlantic circulation to stop. Since then, several groups of researchers have been working on a closer examination of the stability of this current. " - Stefan Rahmstorf, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research,
"Anthropogenic climate change: the risk of unpleasant surprises", 2000.

Dr. William Calvin played a significant role in bringing this story before a wider audience - he was highly aware of climate research due to the fact that he had made the ice-age oscillations a centerpiece in his theories of human neurological evolution.

In fact, I'd say Calvin "scooped" Sudden Climate Change, in his brilliant and readable "The Great Climate Flip-Flop", from The Atlantic's January, 1998 issue.

Bill McKibben - the dedicated and eloquent environmentalist writer/champion for Global warming awareness (among other issues) noted, in an article he wrote for The Atlantic, in May 1998 : "And researchers studying glacial cores from the Greenland Ice Sheet recently concluded that local climate shifts have occurred with incredible rapidity in the past -- 18 degrees in one three-year stretch. Other scientists worry that such a shift might be enough to flood the oceans with fresh water and reroute or shut off currents like the Gulf Stream and the North Atlantic, which keep Europe far warmer than it would otherwise be. (See "The Great Climate Flip-flop," by William H. Calvin, January Atlantic.) In the words of Wallace Broecker, of Columbia University, a pioneer in the field, "Climate is an angry beast, and we are poking it with sticks.""&gt;a piece on Global Warming he wrote for The Atlantic, in May '98. (part 2 of a three part series) : "And researchers studying glacial cores from the Greenland Ice Sheet recently concluded that local climate shifts have occurred with incredible rapidity in the past -- 18 degrees in one three-year stretch. Other scientists worry that such a shift might be enough to flood the oceans with fresh water and reroute or shut off currents like the Gulf Stream and the North Atlantic, which keep Europe far warmer than it would otherwise be. (See "The Great Climate Flip-flop," by William H. Calvin, January Atlantic.) In the words of Wallace Broecker, of Columbia University, a pioneer in the field, "Climate is an angry beast, and we are poking it with sticks." "

I couldn't find the cartoon - which accompanied a piece Broeker wrote in the mid '90s, I think - of "poking an angry beast with a stick", but I've got a copy somewhere.

I always liked this piece, though - one of the earlier scientific appraisals of the problem :

Sudden climate transitions during the Quaternary

"The time span of the past few million years has been punctuated by many rapid climate transitions, most of them on time scales of centuries to decades or even less. The most detailed information is available for the Younger Dryas-to-Holocene stepwise change around 11,500 years ago, which seems to have occurred over a few decades. The speed of this change is probably representative of similar but less well-studied climate transitions during the last few hundred thousand years. These include sudden cold events (Heinrich events/stadials), warm events (Interstadials) and the beginning and ending of long warm phases, such as the Eemian interglacial. Detailed analysis of terrestrial and marine records of climate change will, however, be necessary before we can say confidently on what timescale these events occurred; they almost certainly did not take longer than a few centuries.

Various mechanisms, involving changes in ocean circulation, changes in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases or haze particles, and changes in snow and ice cover, have been invoked to explain these sudden regional and global transitions. We do not know whether such changes could occur in the near future as a result of human effects on climate....."

Here is a fascinating bit of "insider" discussion which accompanied that work - about the epiphany, or realization, of the very possibility of sudden climate shifts ( or, if you will, the repudiation of the "Und So Weiter" fallacy, the assumption of continuity ) :

"Dear Ross,

Here is a hard copy of the "sudden climate change" essay. Most of what I did was to take Jonathan Adams’ long and detailed Web Page piece and edit it (with his assistance and permission, of course). I added notes and lead-ins (most of what is in bold) and a brief conclusion.

Jonathan and I have been working for months on how climatic changes - usually very rapid - have affected the course of modern human history (the past 20,000 years or so). Mired in the past, you might say. Then, lo and behold, at dinner with you I realized that we are living in a time when another such change is upon us. (Yep, I’m a little slow on the uptake) Like I have always tried to teach the young folks, history does indeed apply to the present.

Climate change may be likened to tectonic stress, that builds up imperceptibly until the stress releases in the form of an earthquake. In the case of climate, we can see and measure some of the immediate effects, such as gradual temperature increase, but we cannot predict the :"earthquake" that might ultimately result.

posted by troutfishing at 11:03 AM on April 25, 2004

Wow thanks for the background good reading here. It would make a good journal article or even book to trace the historical developments. The movie coming out could certainly be called the "tipping point" in the bell curve of general awareness. I know in the UK at least they are much less tuned into this story then here in the USA.

"Climate is an angry beast, and we are poking it with sticks."--Wallace Broecker

Hopefully Wallace and that quote will be associated with the discovery, if it happens, otherwise it is good entertainment! I'll be getting through the cold east coast days ahead with hot grits and gravy.
posted by stbalbach at 11:30 AM on April 25, 2004

stbalbach - You're welcome. Is it a thankless exercise (but for your appreciation) ? - I wonder. Still, I'll hunt down that cartoon. It's not Pullitzer material or anything, but.....
posted by troutfishing at 1:36 AM on April 26, 2004

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