Science Intersects Art: “Ice Age” Cartoon Character was Real

November 20, 2011


Scrat, the fictional saber-toothed squirrel from the Ice Age films, may not be so fictional after all. Researchers have discovered the fossil remains of a 94-million-year-old squirrel-like critter with a long, narrow snout and a pair of curved saber-fangs that it would have likely used to pierce its insect prey. The creature, pieced together from skull fragments unearthed in Argentina and dubbed Cronopio dentiacutus, was not ancestral to us or any living mammal. Instead, researchers report online today in Nature, it belonged to an extinct group called dryolestoids, a cadre of fuzzy mammals that scurried about in the shadow of long-necked dinosaurs, as in the artist’s impression above. The new discovery extends the known record of the dryolestoid mammals in South America back 60 million years from what was previously known. There were no acorns around at the time though, so Cronopio—like Scrat—would have had to do without them.

The “Scrat” character, of course, plays a pivotal role in one of my recent videos, below:

18 Responses to “Science Intersects Art: “Ice Age” Cartoon Character was Real”

  1. daveburton Says:

    I think you’ve missed the point, Peter. The problem, as always, is with the magnitude of the feedbacks.

    Of course CO2 outgassing which results from warming can amplify the warming, and display a delayed response. Also, it might not be a coincidence that 800 years is also the approximate time it takes for the Atlantic Conveyor to make a circuit. But you claim that the forcing which causes the initial warming is much weaker than the effect of the CO2, i.e., that the amplification is large, and that is your error.

    Look at your graph of temperature and CO2, with the 800 year gap between the peaks. If the warming effect of the additional CO2 were greater than cooling effect of the Milankovitch cycle, then the temperature would not have declined during that period, while CO2 levels increased. Rather, the warming effect of the increasing CO2 levels would have swamped the cooling effect of the Milankovitch cycle, delaying the cooling until CO2 levels ceased increasing, or nearly so.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      Interpret or distort it any way you like. The whole point of this series is to get beyond internet navel gazers and ask the scientists who do the science what they found and what they meant in their papers, without spinning it.
      That’s why so many high level scientists watch these videos, and use them to teach their students.
      If you feel they are misinterpreting their own data, the field is wide open for you to publish a refutation. Go for it.

    • Alteredstory Says:

      Dave, history is important.

      History gives us perspective.

      If you look at the history of climate denial, you will find that your sentence:

      “The problem, as always, is with the magnitude of the feedbacks.”

      Is factually inaccurate.

      It wasn’t always about the magnitude of the feedbacks, at least not as far as folks like you were concerned.

      It was that there would be no warming (still is for some).

      Then it was that there MIGHT be warming, but not ’cause of humans.

      Then it was that there WAS warming, but not ’cause of humans, and not much.

      And so on, through an endless shifting of position as the reality became to obvious to deny.

      NOW it’s about magnitude of feedbacks (and everything else that came before, depending on who’s arguing and what time of day it is), but to pretend that the argument has always been about scale would be to lie.

      You don’t want to be a liar, do you David?

      • daveburton Says:

        Altered Story, that’s nonsense, and a very weak straw man. There are some people, of course, who doubt there’s any anthropogenic effect, or even any warming, but the serious skeptics are skeptical primarily of the “C” in “CAGW.”

        E.g., I don’t know when Dr. Lindzen said this, but I’ve seen it quoted in a book that was (C) 2007, so it was obviously quite a while ago:

        “Future generations will wonder in bemused amazement that the early twenty-first century’s developed world went into hysterical panic over a globally averaged temperature increase of a few tenths of a degree and, on the basis of gross exaggerations of highly uncertain computer projections combined into implausible chains of inference, proceeded to contemplate a roll back of the industrial age.”
        -Dr. Richard Lindzen (Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology, Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, MIT)

  2. sailrick Says:

    I think daveburton is ignoring the vastly increased albedo effect, of much of the earth being covered with ice during an ice age.

    • daveburton Says:

      Sailrick, the albedo effect is a temperature-based feedback, so it would just amplify the net effect on temperature of other other forcings. If the sign is negative, no amount of amplification can make it positive.

      The amplifying effect of albedo changes cannot make increasing temperatures cease to increase and start falling even as CO2 levels continue to increase. The only way that can happen is if the net effect of the various warming and cooling factors is negative (colder).

      The graph which shows temperatures turning the corner and beginning to fall 800 years before CO2 levels cease rising is inconsistent with Peter’s erroneous belief that the effect of CO2 on temperature is much greater than the negative forcing(s) (which he believes to be the Milankovitch cycle).

      • greenman3610 Says:

        again, you are trying to distort the facts.
        The facts reported here are not “my beliefs”, — that would be what you do, my friend.
        What I do is report what the scientists who do the work are actually saying – as the video makes crystal clear.
        Your need to distort and obfuscate is solely your own.

        • daveburton Says:

          Peter, I did not mean to suggest that you are the only person who has those beliefs. But that was your voice which named “Milankovitch Factors” as “the initial forcing that moves the planet into and out of glacial periods” (2:26), but which also called them “very weak,” “tiny perturbations,” and “a relatively weak forcing” (5:19). So I don’t think it was a distortion or obfuscation for me to characterize those as your beliefs.

          Clearly, at least one of the following three things was true for the 800 year period highlighted in the graph in your video during which temperatures declined even as CO2 continued to increase:

          1. The cooling influence of the Milankovitch cycle factor was not “relatively weak” compared to the warming influence of increasing CO2. And/or,

          2. Other forcings predominated, rather than the two factors shown in the graph ( CO2 and the Milankovitch cycle) — perhaps the sun. And/or,

          3. The graph is wrong, and either the CO2 data or the proxy-derived temperature data (or both) are in error.

          What is not possible is that a small negative factor (Milankovitch cycle) plus a larger concurrent positive factor (CO2 increase) factor combined to have a net negative effect on temperature, during that 800 year period. A small negative factor plus a larger positive factor results in a net positive effect. Amplification of a net positive effect by feedbacks such as albedo could not possibly have resulted in declining temperatures, regardless of whether the feedbacks were immediate or delayed (unless the delay was thousands of years long, which is implausible).

          Do you understand why that is the case?

          In your video, you claim that the large changes in glaciation were because “other factors were at work to amplify small changes” from the Milankovitch cycle’s “tiny perturbations.” But such amplification cannot explain what you think it explains: the decline in temperatures which (apparently) occurred even as CO2 levels were rising. Amplifying feedbacks such as albedo do not discriminate: they amplify the warming effect of CO2 no less and no more than the cooling effect of the Milankovitch factor.

          • greenman3610 Says:

            rather than postulating some as yet undetected solar effect, or appealing, as you have elsewhere, to Leonard Nimoy’s expertise (may he live long and prosper)- I, again, go to the scientists to ask for explanations that actually fit the observed facts.
            Since you continue to repeat this wrong headed, wishful thinking canard, I’ll share a private communication from
            Jeff Severinghaus, I hope he’ll not mind –

            “Yes, indeed you have noted this correctly. Temperature does
            begin to fall, even when CO2 is still rising, for periods of up to
            a few thousand years. The explanation is simple: the temperature
            changes on these long time scales are driven by changes in
            Earth’s orbit around the Sun, which cause the amount of June sunlight
            falling on the northern land masses to change by several tens
            of percent (not an insignificant change).

            In other words, CO2 is not the only factor that causes climate change.

            This is not news – nor is it any reason to suspect that CO2 does not
            cause warming. It is simply a fact that many things cause climate
            change. Nonetheless it is clear that current climate change cannot
            be blamed on the Earth’s orbit because the changes are happening
            much too fast – the orbit changes over time scales of thousands of
            years, whereas we are seeing change over the time scales of decades.

            The explanation for why CO2 follows temperature change on these
            glacial-interglacial cycles is that the ocean traps CO2 when it is cold,
            and as it warms, it outgasses CO2 to the atmosphere. Thus CO2 acts
            as a sort of “amplifier”, increasing the magnitude of climate change
            that ultimately occurs, but with a lag of several hundred to several
            thousand years. For some reason that is not well understood, the
            lag is much longer upon cooling than upon warming. The reason
            may be that Antarctic temperature records are mean-annual records,
            but the really important temperature for CO2 storage in the ocean
            is the Antarctic winter temperature (because it is in winter that water
            becomes dense enough to sink to the deep sea, and CO2-rich water
            rises to replace that water, allowing CO2 to leak out into the air).
            Thus it may be that summers cool first upon the inception of an ice
            age, causing the temperature records to decline (since they are
            mean-annual records), but the CO2 concentrations are reflecting
            the winter temperatures, which cool much later due to the enormous
            heat capacity of the ocean. “

          • daveburton Says:

            Thank you for going to a knowledgeable source, and posting a substantive reply.

            I agree that “several tens of percent” is certainly not a “tiny perturbation.”

            However, one likely reason for the significant warming we’ve seen since the 1970s (“change over the time scales of decades”), or at least for a substantial portion of it, is the aggressive air pollution abatement programs of the 1970s-1980s, which reduced sunlight-reflecting aerosols. There is no need to postulate dramatic amplification of CO2’s effects to explain that the magnitude of the temperature increase from the late 1970s to the late 1990s.

          • daveburton Says:

            Thank you for going to a knowledgeable source, and posting a substantive reply.

            I agree that “several tens of percent” is certainly not a “tiny perturbation.”

            However, one likely reason for the significant warming we’ve seen since the 1970s (“change over the time scales of decades”), or at least for a substantial portion of it, is the aggressive air pollution abatement programs of the 1970s-1980s, which reduced sunlight-reflecting aerosols. There is no need to postulate dramatic amplification of CO2′s effects to explain the magnitude of the temperature increase from the late 1970s to the late 1990s.

            Just four days after I wrote that came new support for it, when we learned of a study in Science Magazine indicating that climate sensitivity to GHG forcings is greatly overestimated by the IPCC.

            This is particularly gratifying since Science Magazine has been solidly in the alarmist camp, even as scientific evidence piled up on the other side.

            I encourage you to solicit & post Dr. Severinghaus’s response.

            The Climate Movement ship is sinking under the weight of the evidence. Now comes news of yet another defection from The Movement:

            Cameron’s green guru reveals his doubts over global warming

            By Mail On Sunday Reporter
            27th November 2011

            Steve Hilton, the Prime Minister’s director of strategy and ‘green guru’, is the latest person to admit to doubts about climate change.

            ‘I’m not sure I believe in it,’ he announced at a meeting of the Energy Department, prompting one aide to blurt out: ‘Did I just hear that correctly?’

            According to one witness, Hilton, 41, the man who coined the slogan ‘Vote Blue and Go Green’ and changed the Tory symbol from a Stalinist style torch to an eco friendly tree, said: ‘Climate change arguments are highly complex.
            ‘My focus has always been more on using green issues to improve the quality of life.’

            Hilton famously persuaded David Cameron to go to the Arctic with a pack of huskies to prove that he was determined to combat global warming in his early days as Tory leader.

            Now, however, Hilton as become a big fan of former Chancellor Nigel Lawson, a vocal critic of the global warming lobby. …

    • daveburton Says:

      Put another way, albedo changes amplify the (cooling) effect of the Milankovitch cycle just as much as they amplify the (warming) effect of CO2.

      So if Peter were right, that CO2 has a much greater effect than the negative forcings (the Milankovitch cycle), then regardless of how much amplification was produced by the albedo effects, temperatures could not fall for 800 years even as CO2 levels continued to increase. That is only possible if CO2 has less effect than the negative forcing(s).

  3. sailrick Says:

    And I think I’ve oversimplified at least as badly as davidburton ; -)

    There is some evidence that the atlantic conveyer currents slow down and speed up, for one thing.

    I recommend reading the articles at Skeptical Science that cover this issue, as well as the comments there.

    • daveburton Says:

      Drat, missed another close-link tag. Sorry about that! I sure wish there were a “preview” button, or an “edit” button, so I could fix stuff like that. This is what I tried to write:

      Sailrick, those two (nearly identical) links do not address the issue I raised, which is that the 800 period during which temperatures fell even as CO2 increased, shown in the graph in Peter’s video, would be impossible if the CO2 had a greater effect than the negative forcing(s), as Peter believes.

      Peter is correct in his belief that the lag between temperature and CO2 does not prove that CO2 has no warming effect, as some people have asserted. However, if the graph is correct, it does prove that CO2’s effect was less than that of the forcing(s) which drive the glaciation cycles, at least during the 800 year period in question.

      The core of the CAGW dispute is the argument over the net effect of CO2 on temperature, with all the feedbacks, positive and negative. The most rigorous analysis of this issue that I’ve seen is by Dr. Jack Barrett, here:

  4. daveburton Says:

    Altered Story, with serendipitous timing, there’s a brand new and very enlightening article on WUWT today, by Lawrence Solomon, about the Climate Movement’s frequent (& highly deceptive) claim that nearly all the experts agree that AGW is a serious threat:

    Sample quote: “From my discussions with literally hundreds of skeptical scientists over the past few years, I know of none who claims that the planet hasn’t warmed since the 1700s, and almost none who think that humans haven’t contributed in some way to the recent warming…”

    Read the article for the litany of ways in which two “researchers” tortured the evidence to manufacture their claim that 97% of climate scientists are in agreement.

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