Activists ignore history's cycles of warming, cooling

Editorial By Dennis T. Avery
Seattle Times


WASHINGTON The latest pseudo-scientific parlor game is pretending that the Little Ice Age didn't happen.

We're supposed to ignore the historic reality that the world's mean temperatures dropped sharply by 2 to 4 degrees Fahrenheit from about 1300 AD until at least 1850 AD and, in the 14th century, fell perhaps a freaky 9 degrees below today's average temperatures.

Let's pretend this well-documented spasm of freezing cold, advancing glaciers and terrible storms did not freeze the Viking settlers to death on Greenland or create Europe's "year without a summer" in 1315, when crops failed and created massive famine.

The silly game of "hide the Little Ice Age" is being played to support the greenhouse warming theory: the computer-modeled supposition that human activity is making the world seriously warmer.

The Little Ice Age and the Medieval Warming that preceded it from 950 to 1300 AD stand out in every historic temperature record as the major weather events of the past 1,000 years, and they're a hefty problem for global-warming proponents.

If the world was warmer in 1200 than today, and far colder in the year 1400, why would we blame current temperature trends on auto exhausts?

Nevertheless, the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report says that "viewed hemispherically, the Little Ice Age can only be considered as a modest cooling of the Northern Hemisphere during the period. Such regional variability can be understood in part as reflecting accompanying changes in atmospheric circulation."

There you have it. The Earth didn't get colder, its circulation just got a little constricted. For 500 years? How?

The U.N. report says, "The evidence for temperature changes in past centuries in the Southern Hemisphere is quite sparse. What evidence is available ... suggests markedly different behavior from the Northern Hemisphere. The only obvious similarity is the unprecedented warmth of the late 20th century."

Well, the Antarctic is in the Earth's Southern Hemisphere, and we've gotten some very interesting scientific data on the Little Ice Age in Antarctica over the past few years.

Hamilton College's Eugene Domack, for instance, analyzed ocean sediments from the continental shelf of the western Antarctic Peninsula and was able to date the Little Ice Age as starting about 700 years ago, and ending about 100 years ago.

Boo-Keun Khim at Seoul National University's Research Institute of Oceanography, analyzing geochemical data from Antarctica's northern tip, discovered both the Little Ice Age and the Medieval Warming period along with previous earthly warmings and coolings that go back thousands of years.

Contrary to the common belief that global warming will melt the polar ice caps, modest warming brings more snow so the ice caps build up.

The greenhouse theory advanced by global warming enthusiasts tells us that mankind is ruining the Earth, but the billion-dollar computer models they use to project weather patterns 100 years from now don't even agree with each other.

One says South Dakota will become a desert, another predicts it will become a swamp which leaves people in Rapid City and Sioux Falls in a bit of a quandary.

Meanwhile, the Earth's own historic records, in the fossils, sediments and ice cores, tell us we're in another modest, natural warming cycle that will bring back the finest weather humanity can remember.

For those of us who still shiver remembering the extra-cold winter of 2002-03, that news ought to be greeted with grateful pleasure rather than breast-beating alarm.

Dennis T. Avery is a senior fellow at The Hudson Institute ( Readers may write to him at Hudson/DC, 1015 18th St. N.W., Suite 300, Washington, D.C. 20036.


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