Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Big Freeze

Do you remember the year 2000?  Bill Clinton served his last year as President, the Olympics were held in Sydney, and the Yankees defeated the Mets in the World Series.  For me, that was the year I got my first new car, and it was the year I went on vacation in Rhode Island.  It was only fifteen years ago.
Well, guess what:  In 2030, a date no further in the future than the disputed Bush-Gore presidential election is in the past, the earth will enter a "mini Ice Age" that is expected to last for a decade due to a 60 percent decrease in sun spots and solar flares caused by two magnetic waves canceling each other out.  Or so said Valentina Zharkova of Northumbria University in Britain at the 2015 National Astronomy Meeting in Wales. The sun will essentially take a nap and the planet will get colder.
So, you say, we'll be experiencing the sort of winter temperatures we haven't experienced in a long time?  No!  We'll be experiencing winter temperatures we've never experienced before - ever!  Because there's no one alive who remembers the last time this has happened!  The last such mini Ice Age took place between 1645 and 1715, before George Washington was born!   And back then it was so cold that the Thames River in England froze solidly enough to support the weight of a winter carnival!  Like the one depicted in the picture below!
So what else does this mean?  Most likely, it will kill a lot of flora and fauna, and it will also likely mean that the crop season everywhere may be very short - and there are a lot more people to feed on this planet than there were when Oliver Cromwell walked the earth . . . and the Thames.
But at least that will reverse global warming, right? Think again.  Scientists have already made it clear that the expected global drop in temperatures won't be enough to override the effects of climate change.  British scientist Sarah Ineson says that impacts of what she calls a "grand solar minimum" may indeed make winter weather more than merely chilly in certain regions, particularly in North America and northern Europe, but she added that even if we do see a return to the sort of solar activity that caused the last mini Ice Age, winter in the Northern Hemisphere would still likely get milder overall, which would seem to suggest that some parts of the hemisphere would still warm up in the winter season.  (She didn't discuss the Southern Hemisphere, as far as I know, but I believe I can assume that projections for that part of the world would be similar.)   "This study," Ineson says, "shows that the sun isn't going to save us from global warming, but it could have impacts at a regional level that should be factored into decisions about adapting to climate change for the decades to come."
In other words, we're screwed. Bear in mind that we humans weren't burning fossil fuels and fouling up the atmosphere during the last mini Ice Age - called the Maunder Minimum after the husband-and-wife astronomer team that studied this period in retrospect - so the impact of all of our man-made warming against any natural cooling is something we have no precedent for, and no experience with . . . with no way to effectively study how it's going to affect us when it happens.  You see, the warming of the earth is already giving us colder winters in the northeastern  U.S., pulling down the polar vortex into the region, while causing a persistent drought in California and melting ice caps that disrupt the Gulf Stream, which is the only thing keeping Britain from freezing into . . .well, the Ice Age.  This could indeed make winters in the U.K. longer and deadlier.  So, we're in truly unexplored territory here.  And if you think winters in the American Northeast have been bad recently, we likely haven't seen anything yet! :-O        

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