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What relevance does past natural cycles have with recent global warming?

What the science says...

Ancient natural cycles are irrelevant for attributing recent global warming to humans.

Climate Myth...

It's a 1500 year cycle

“Every one of them [climate records of the past] show this (roughly 1500 year) cycle.  It was first discovered in ice cores in Greenland.  Then it was seen in ocean sediments in the Atlantic.  And now it’s been found everywhere, including in stalagmites in caves. […] it could well account for the current warming.” (Fred Singer)

For someone to state that the global warming we’re experiencing is actually part of a 1500-year natural cycle of global temperature variation is interesting for two reasons. First — in contradiction to the great majority of sceptic arguments that actually deny global warming — this argument requires that the person promoting this explanation must first agree that climate change is, indeed, happening.

 Second, they must also refuse to accept the greenhouse effect, a theory first proposed more than 100 years ago and which even many sceptics of the human contribution to climate change, readily accept.

The 1500-year cycle in question has been observed mainly through ice core data as a warming in the northern hemisphere matched at precisely the same time by a cooling in the southern hemisphere. So it’s a heat distribution issue:  a global temperature ‘see-saw’ effect. The total heat in the global system remains constant.

In contrast, human-produced global warming has been caused by the rapidly increasing CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere over the last 200 years — rising over 400 parts per million after remaining below 300 parts per million for the previous 800,000 years. And unlike natural heat variations, the current temperature increase caused by CO2 is being recorded occurring all around the globe – on the ground, in the air and in the oceans.

Last updated on 16 October 2018 by John Russell. View Archives

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Comments 26 to 41 out of 41:

  1. msqrd #25, you've served a double fault here, Pagani shows no such thing. The quoted CO2 concentrations are not strictly dependant on the proxy as you imply, and you missed that Pagani et al 2005 were reconstructing CO2 levels from the mid-Eocene to late Oligocene, some 25-45million years ago. Ice core CO2 measurements go back some 800,000years, so the two ranges do not even nearly overlap. From Pagani et al 2005:
    We used stable carbon isotopic values of di-unsaturated alkenones extracted from deep sea cores to reconstruct pCO2 fromthe middle Eocene to the late Oligocene (∼45 to 25 million years ago). Our results demonstrate that pCO2 ranged between 1000 to 1500 parts per million by volume in the middle to late Eocene, then decreased in several steps during the Oligocene, and reached modern levels by the latest Oligocene. The fall in pCO2 likely allowed for a critical expansion of ice sheets on Antarctica and promoted conditions that forced the onset of terrestrial C4 photosynthesis.
    You'll also see how the level of CO2 is implicated in some crucial changes, notably the expansion of Antarctic ice sheets. You might also want to read Pagani et al, 2010, a paper discussing the Pliocene climate, and see if it supports your conclusions. You might want to consider what the climate of Earth was like the last time CO2 levels were this high
  2. 1500-year cycles... It is the iceberg armadas (Heinrich events) that show the 1470-year cycle. The Dangaard-Oschger events are the fast (10yr) cooling and even faster (2-4yr) rewarmings of 10C, several dozen in the last ice age. As Stefan Rahmstorf noted, some coincide with the iceberg armadas, some don't. It is not correct to speak of a D-O Cycle. The rapidity of the warming is thought to be due to the albedo positive feedback, same thing as is getting started in the Arctic Ocean today but involving the entire North Atlantic Ocean.
  3. I'm NOT a climate change denier NOR an AGW denier but wish to express the logical conclusion that BOTH the 1470-year cycle AND man-made greenhouse gas emissions could be the drivers of modern era warming. I take Prof Brian Cox's point of view : The Issue With Climate Change, South China Morning Post, 23rd May 2019. He talks about the framework of science being our best understanding of how the world works. The quantitative amount of energy from gravity via the coriolis effect and via the Moon's gravitational interaction across the entire planet's body giving rise to the enormous power of ocean tides dissipating heat from the equator to the higher latitudes, is much greater than solar radiance combined with AGW. Why are these two driving forces of our climate not quantively compared? Why is gravity missing from the Global Warming Debate? 

    I'd be surprised if there's a single scientist in the IPCC that actually knows the ocean tides move due to the flexing of the Earth's lithosphere. The oceans move due to being pushed from the ocean floor. Nobody is measuring the mid-ocean to see whether deep ocean tidal mixing is making it cooler, for example. 


    People like Prof Brian Cox should also inform the public that gravity itself is under scrutiny within the physics community and that it's possible for new physics to have a major bearing on future climate modeling.

  4. Alan Lowey @28 ,

    the sun's energy absorbed by the Earth is approx 1.1x10^17 watts (based on TSI times 71% absorption times Earth-cross-sectional area).

    Tidal energy (lithosphere and oceans) dissipated into heat, is calculated (Na & Lee, 2014 ) as approx 3.5x10^12 watts.  So roughly the same as world total electrical generated power.  And roughly a third of the heat generated by the radioactivity of the Earth's core.  And roughly 1/30,000 th  of the solar radiational heat absorbed by the earth's surface.

    The core heat rising to the surface is so tiny (for climate calculations) that it is usually ignored.  And the ocean tide heating effect is even smaller than the core heat loss.

    I do not understand how you can say: "tides dissipating heat ... is much greater than solar radiance combined with AGW."  You seem to have gotten that back to front.  Or were you meaning a comparison with that fraction of extra heating produced through the greenhouse action of human-caused CO2/methane/etcetera?  Yet even there, your "tidal" heat is at least a couple of orders of magnitude too small.

  5. Thank you for the response Eclectic.

    I don't agree with your statement "Tidal energy (lithosphere and oceans) dissipated into heat..", I'm talking about the energy required to move an ocean of water is greater than the energy of the sun's irradiance. Simple kinetic energy that moves an entire ocean is orders of magnitude greater than the sun's heat we receive. Surely?


    [DB] Part of what makes this site a treasure for most is the reliance upon using credible evidence to support one's claims.  For credibility, you will have to do that.  Citations to the primary literature work best, either via direct link to the URL or by providing the DOI of the published research and the name of the source article you feel supports your contentions.

  6. The second paragraph at the top of this topic should be amended because it is a false statement. I'm a strong believer in the AGW climate emergency but also believe in the 1,470 year lunar induced climate cycle but via new physics. This view IS scientific in principle. I studied Simulation Modelling at MSc level at Brunel.

    The third paragraph is dismissive of the significance of hemisperical heat distribution. The extremes of rapid climate change recorded in ice age data should be of deep concern to modern day climate change. The see-saw effect doesn't have a well defined mechanism in standard climate modeling. A new physics lunar model can explain this with increasing tidal energy being greater in the northern hemisphere compared to the southern. I have a background in Astronomy and obtained my BSc degree from the University attended by Sir Patrick Moore.

    Perhaps you need a new section for people like me?

  7. Alan Lowey @31 ,

    With all due respect Alan, your views on the science of climate are seriously out of touch with the mainstream science of the past 200 years.

    The 1000+ year cyclic lunar control of climate; your intuitive & mind-bogglingly vast over-assessment of the relatively minuscule energies involved in tidal sloshing of oceans; your darkly mysterious allusions to "gravity and New Physics" . . . all point to a major problem you have, which you seem unaware of.

    Please educate yourself on the mainstream science.  Please consider the possibility that the thousands of expert scientists (working over many decades) may know something that you do not know.

    However, if you feel that Urania, the Muse of astronomy and science, has uniquely gifted you with new scientific revelations . . . then you are welcome to present the evidence [repeat: evidence ] in the appropriate threads here at SkS.  Probably not this thread.

    Possibly you have failed to notice it ~ but there have been several "contrarian" scientific challenges to mainstream climate science, and published in mainstream journals, too . . . but each and every such challenge has eventually fallen flat on its face, because it clashed with the evidence.

    <"Perhaps you need a new thread for people like me?">   Well, in a manner of speaking, there is such a new section, but it was found necessary to host it on its own separate website.  You will find it under the title: WattsUpWithThat.   WUWT is keen to publicize any and all ideas which run counter to the established evidence-based science, despite those ideas clashing with each other.  The disadvantage of it, is that you will find yourself rubbing shoulders with a mutually-argumentative bunch of commenters, half of whom are in complete denial of basic physics (especially the physics of CO2 and other "greenhouse" gasses) . . . and most of the other half suffer from anger issues & extremist political views (as well).  Still, you might find yourself enjoying such a website, if you don't mind its Bizarro tendencies.

  8. I see on the SkS team that Klaus Flemlose of Denmark has a keen interest in storm surges, sea level and the tides. I'd love to hear his probability on my assertation that the tidal bulge of the Earth is increasing at a faster rate in the northern hemisphere compared to the southern hemisphere. It could be relatively easily tested using satellite technology imo.


    [DB] You are off-topic for the subject of this post.  Many threads here deal with SLR (use the Search function to find one more appropriate).

  9. A.L "1,470 year lunar induced climate cycle."The chief hypotheses on D.O. events and Bond events involve long term ocean currents and deep mixing events, or fresh water injections, not the moon. Whereas I found a wealth of papers involving oceanic processes, I could not find one mentioning a lunar component.



  10. Stefan Rahmstorf, the originator of the 1,470 year cycle, noticed that the data was like 'clockwork', indicating an orbital origin. The obvious choice of a lunar origin was derided by his contemporaries, although none of them had the foresight to envisage new physics to fit the data.


    [DB] You are certainly welcome to your own opinions, but this venue is science-based and to be taken seriously here you will need to up your game and start providing citations to the peer-reviewed published evidence that you feel supports your contentions.  Otherwise it will be assumed that you are simply making things up, AKA, sloganeering.

    Please note that posting comments here at SkS is a privilege, not a right.  This privilege can and will be rescinded if the posting individual continues to treat adherence to the Comments Policy as optional, rather than the mandatory condition of participating in this online forum.

    Moderating this site is a tiresome chore, particularly when commentators repeatedly submit off-topic posts or make things up. We really appreciate people's cooperation in abiding by the Comments Policy, which is largely responsible for the quality of this site.
    Finally, please understand that moderation policies are not open for discussion.  If you find yourself incapable of abiding by these common set of rules that everyone else observes, then a change of venues is in the offing.

    Please take the time to review the policy and ensure future comments are in full compliance with it.  Thanks for your understanding and compliance in this matter.

    Sloganeering snipped.

  11. Your term "sloganeering" and deleting of my posts, not just ruling them through, is against the very foundations of science-based intellectualism, namely, natural philosophy.


    [TD] Moderation complaints deleted.

  12. The "obvious choice of a lunar origin" is discussed by Rahmstorf himself in the paper that you mentioned without referencing it, and apparently did not read because it does not support your hypothesis at all. From the conclusion section:

    "The closest cycle known so far is a lunar cycle of 1,800 years [De Rop, 1971], which cannot be reconciled with the 1,470‐year pacing found in the Greenland data. The origin of this regular pacing thus remains a mystery."

    Copied from: Rahmstorf (2003). Timing of abrupt climate change: A precise clock. Geophysical research Letters, 30 (10).|

    The Rahmstorf (2003) paper and others that I linked earlier explore why the weak forcing associated with this cycle fails to produce D.O. events in the Holocene. The climate effects are entirely owed to ocean circulation, especially salinity changes. There is other litterature suggesting that the cycle is still present but has not produced any noticeable climate effect since the last DO event. I am not impressed with how much you have explored the subject. This stuff is not hard to find.

  13. The DOI link above doesn't seem to work. Paper is accessible here:

  14. Philippe Chantreau 

    Thank you for the link. The last two lines of the paper, as you've quoted, are the most relevant to my thought experiment.

    Rahmstorf didn't consider combining the 'problem with gravity' with the 'problem of fitting a lunar cause'. There's some wonderful YouTube explanations of The Problem With Gravity. If the fundamentals of how we think gravity works is wrong, then it's possible to assign the Moon as the cause of the 1,470 year cycle. 

  15. You do not expose anything like a "thought experiment" in your ramblings. You stated this in post  35 above:

    "The obvious choice of a lunar origin was derided by his contemporaries,..."

    This was a complete fabrication, as was clearly exposed by Rahmstorf himself in the paper you couldn't bother to read despite using it for your argument. The last 2 lines of the paper are not relevant to any thought experiment. You seem to confuse thought experiment with hypothesis. You're trying to make it look like we are somehow in agreement and that you kind of knew what Rahmstorf said, when in fact it is clear you had no clue whatsoever.

    The fundamentals of how we think about gravity is called General Relativity, it has withstood every test thrown at it for the past 100 years. Just like Newton's theory, when it is shown not to be the best explanation, it will still remain valid for all practical purposes within a given domain of application. You are making a bold assertion, and contradicting Rahmstorf himself. It is incumbent to you to support such assertion. A YouTube video does not cut it. You're claiming all the scientists at NASA, NOAA and elsewhere have it wrong, show your work. Without that, you've got nothing but hot air. I can't wait to see how you reduce 1800 years to 1470.

  16. Since this whole pile of  nonsense relies on a very exact timing and Rahmstorf's interpretation in the paper above of a rigid cyclicity with a 1470 years period, let's consider the state of the science following the Rahmstorf (2003) paper.

    The timing of D.O. events has been in fact the subject of considerable debate. Obrochta, Miyahara, Yokoyama & Crowley (2012) injected much doubt as to the true cyclic nature of the events and the duration of the period. They have some pretty strong language:
    "Our new results suggest that the “1500-year cycle” may be a transient phenomenon whose origin could be due, for example, to ice sheet boundary conditions for the interval in which it is observed. We therefore question whether it is necessary to invoke such exotic explanations as heterodyne frequencies or combination tones to explain a phenomenon of such fleeting occurrence that is potentially an artifact of arithmetic averaging."

    In addition, solar cycles are pretty good candidates to figure as the initial forcings in the events: "Results from the most well-dated, younger interval suggest that the original 1500 ± 500 year cycle may actually be an admixture of the ∼1000 and ∼2000 cycles that are observed within the Holocene at multiple locations. In Holocene sections these variations are coherent with 14C and 10Be estimates of solar variability."

    Another European team 5 years earlier came to even stronger conclusions about the timing and cyclicty of the events. P. D. Ditlevsen, K. K. Andersen, and A. Svensson (2007) state: 

    "Here we present statistical significance tests of this periodicity. The detection of a periodicity relies strongly on the accuracy of the dating of the DO events. Here we use both the new NGRIP GICC05 time scale based on multi-parameter annual layer counting and the GISP2 time scale where the periodicity is most pronounced. For the NGRIP dating the recurrence times are indistinguishable from a random occurrence." So, in other words, when dating is refined in the ice core, the periodicity evaporates.

    It should be furthermore noted that D.O. events belong in a rather ancient past, as there has not been any since the last one observable in the GRIP/GISP cores, about 25,000 years ago.

    The Holocene shows another cycle of Bond events, of much smaller magnitude, most of them without a clear climate signal. The periodicity of the Bond events is closer to 1,000 years. Perhaps Alan's creative gravity maths can take us from 1800 to 1500 to 1000.  All this can be found through a quick search of D.O. events, Heinrich events and Bond events. 

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