Climate Zombies Need More than a Double Tap

July 15, 2015

In the movie  ‘ZombieLand”, a key plot device and running joke is that, when killing the undead, it’s always best to “double tap” – make sure with an extra shot or bat to the noggin.
But movie zombies are wimps compared to climate zombies, which keep coming back to life within weeks every time they are put down.
Case in point, the current nonsense about, once again, a “new ice age” that the science denial crowd is flinging around, and mainstream media has shamefully parroted.  Knowing that your crazy uncle will be sending you an email blast on this, I’ve put this together, once again.

In a nutshell, we are told that the sun may be in for a period of sunspot quiescence similar to that seen during the “Little Ice Age” of the 17th to 19th century.

Joe Romm had the patience to put up a helpful post on this (again) over at ClimateProgress:

Last week, in Llandudno, north Wales, the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) held Cyfarfod Seryddiaeth Cenedlaethol 2015 — the “National Astronomy Meeting 2015″ (in case you don’t speak Welsh). An RAS news release had this startling headline, “Irregular Heartbeat Of The Sun Driven By Double Dynamo.”

Okay, that wasn’t the startling part. This was: “Predictions from the model suggest that solar activity will fall by 60 per cent during the 2030s to conditions last seen during the ‘mini ice age’ that began in 1645.”

Ah, but the word choice was confusing. We’re not going to have temperature “conditions” last seen during the Little Ice Age. If this one study does turn out to be right, we’d see solar conditions equivalent to the Maunder Minimum in the 2030s.

This won’t cause the world to enter a mini ice age — for three reasons:

    • The Little Ice Age turns out to have been quite little.
    • What cooling there was probably was driven more by volcanoes than the Maunder Minimum.
    • The warming effect from global greenhouse gases will overwhelm any reduction in solar forcing, even more so by the 2030s.

So how little was the Little Ice Age?

The most comprehensive reconstruction of the temperature of the past 2000 years done so far, the “PAGES 2k project,” concluded that “there were no globally synchronous multi-decadal hot or cold intervals that define a worldwide Medieval Warm Period or Little Ice Age.”

The Little Ice Age was little in duration and in geographic extent. It was an “Age” the way Pluto is a planet.

Writing on Climate Progress, climatologist Stefan Rahmstorf noted the researchers “identify some shorter intervals where extremely cold conditions coincide with major volcanic eruptions and/or solar minima (as already known from previous studies).”

That brings us to the second point: The latest research finds that what short-term cooling there was during the Little Ice Age was mostly due to volcanoes, not the solar minimum. As “Scientific American” explained in its 2012 piece on the LIA, “New simulations show that several large, closely spaced eruptions (and not decreased solar radiation) could have cooled the Northern Hemisphere enough to spark sea-ice growth and a subsequent feedback loop.” The period associated with the LIA “coincide with two of the most volcanically active half centuries in the past millennium, according to the researchers.”

After one of the more recent “new ice age” flurries, Dana Nuccitelli clarified with a post and a helpful graph in The Guardian:

There have been several studies in recent years investigating what impact another grand solar minimum would have on global surface temperatures, since solar research suggests it’s possible we could be due for another extended solar minimum. Generally these studies will run climate model simulations under a given greenhouse gas emissions scenario with stable solar activity, then run the same scenario with the sun going into a grand minimum, and look at the difference in resulting global surface temperature changes.

Using this approach, Feulner & Rahmstorf (2010) (PDF available here) estimated that another solar minimum equivalent to the Dalton and Maunder minima would cause 0.09°C and 0.26°C cooling, respectively.

minimumA helpful and patient soul at MediaMatters took the time to address the current kerfuffle.


A July 14 article promoted the thoroughlydebunkedright-wingclaim that, according to a group of scientists, a decrease in solar activity over the next 15 years could lead to a “deep freeze.” In reality, the scientists’ findings about the “irregular heartbeat of the Sun” did not include any analysis of how it might impact global temperatures, and several recent studies that did address the issue found that any cooling from decreased solar activity would be far outweighed by increased warming due to greenhouse gas pollution.

zombietapIn a July 9 press release, the British Royal Astronomical Society stated that professor Valentina Zharkova and her colleagues had created a model that suggests “solar activity will fall by 60 per cent during the 2030s to conditions last seen during the ‘mini ice age’ that began in 1645.” That line was quickly distorted by conservative media outlets on both sides of the Atlantic, such as the UK’s Telegraph and The Washington Times, which claimed the scientists had found that the earth is likely heading for a “mini ice age.”

Zharkova herself did not help matters when she hesitantly answered, “Yes, indeed” when asked during a July 13 interview with Radio New Zealand whether she was “saying we’ve got 15 years before there’s an ice age?” Zharkova, who is a professor of mathematics at Northumbria University in England, clarified later in the interview that she doesn’t “do atmospheric research” and “can’t say for sure” what impact the phenomenon she has predicted, known as a grand solar minimum, will have on the earth’s climate relative to global warming.

However, studies that specifically researched the potential climate impact of a grand solar minimum have found that it would be very small compared to the continued warming that will occur as a result of man-made climate change, a fact that appeared in several publications before posted its article.

In 2013, The Guardian’s Dana Nuccitelli cited several studies on the impact a grand solar minimum would have on global temperatures, concluding, “A new grand solar minimum would not trigger another [Little Ice Age]; in fact, the maximum 0.3°C cooling would barely make a dent in the human-caused global warming over the next century.” More recently, The Washington Post reported on July 14 that “several otherrecentstudies of a possible solar minimum have concluded that whatever climate effects the phenomenon may have will be dwarfed by the warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions.” Similarly, blog posts by Slate’s Phil Plait and the website and Then There’s Physics each cited one of those studies, which was published in Nature Communications and found that “[a]ny reduction in global mean near-surface temperature due to a future decline in solar activity is likely to be a small fraction of projected anthropogenic warming.”

Finally, here’s my video from a few years ago, during another “Little Ice Age” scare – and, yes, I apologize to those who have seen it many times, but really, no need as yet to do a new one. All the salient points are here.

The meta-message here, that climate denial organizations know very well they are sending, is this – “See? Not even the scientists can agree on this. Cooling, Warming? Nobody knows.”
It’s a core message of climate denial, and they’ll keep using it as long as it works – and with our somnolent, science illiterate media, that might be a long time yet.

UPDATE: Eric Holthaus in Slate:

If anything, changes in the oceans—especially the Pacific, our largest ocean—over the last couple of years point to an imminent increase in the rate of global warming. El Niño has already grown to record levels in the Pacific for this time of year, and ocean temperatures in the vast patch of sea from Hawaii to California to Alaska are also without precedent. Similar events have coincided with a 10- to 20-year surge in global temperatures.

No matter what the sun does over the next century, we are not heading in to a new ice age. Why am I so sure about that? It may have something to do with the 110 million tons of carbon dioxide humanity is pumping into the atmosphere every single day. The resulting change to our global climate system is so huge, it overwhelms all natural atmospheric forces, including the sun. There is no other plausible explanation for global warming except us.


8 Responses to “Climate Zombies Need More than a Double Tap”

  1. Not only did Zharkova admit she didn’t do atmospheric research, she also mumbled something about believing, “…for example the polar caps of Mars are melting simultaneously with our global warming. Or the typhoons appear on Jupiter at the same time.”

    Now I know correlation is not causation but it would seem she shows all the sign of being in denial, so it could be construed that she didn’t mind if people inferred we could be in for a ‘mini ice age’.

  2. jimbills Says:

    I saw the article on CNN when it came up. It was really sloppily written. I think it was even missing a period at the end of the last sentence, as if the author wasn’t quite done with it, and just gave up and hit ‘send’.

    Included in the media’s coverage is the assumption that the ‘Little Ice Age’ was a direct result of reduced solar activity, when this link isn’t certain at all. The LIA started a century (1550) before the Maunder Minimum (1645), for one thing.

    In addition to increased volcanic activity, the LIA coincides with a mass die off of populations in the Americas after Columbus landed. European diseases are estimated to have killed around 90% of the total population in the Americas. There is also evidence of a lot of ‘slash and burn’ agriculture taking place in pre-Columbian America, and another theory exists that a sudden reforestation from 1550-1700 could at least partially explain a drop in temperatures.

    • oldmarsguy Says:

      Jimbills, yes, Bill Ruddiman lays this all out in his excellent book–Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum if you aren’t already familiar with it. He goes a little deeper in his later sequel –Earth Transformed. Both are excellent. Also, Alfred Crosby’s –The Columbian Exchange– though not climate oriented, shows how radical the exchange was and anyone that understands Ruddiman’s thesis will find it a great dovetail to Ruddiman’s books and ideas.

  3. redskylite Says:

    The story was given prominent space in the U.K newspaper “The Independent” which I always viewed as a better source for Climate related stories. I have also seen it in several science magazines, which later (unlike the Independent) at least printed a retraction.

    It is a rerun of the of the 2013 University of Reading story, where the lead author (Prof Mike Lockwood) clearly stated solar effects were insignificant compared to the GHG forcing (conveniently left out by the Anthony Watts report).

    I was pleased to listen to Prof. Lockwood’s talk in the recent Denial101X course (attached below), and the insignificance compared with GHG forcing repeated.

    I wish, at least reputable media, would be more careful what they pick up as it all goes to spreading confusion and doubt in peoples minds, at a time when we need to be highly focused.

  4. Reblogged this on Notes from the Overground and commented:
    There is no other plausible explanation for global warming except us.

  5. […] the confrontation between anthropogenic global warming and coming-ice-age-scientists should read this post at Climate […]

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