Global Warming or Global Cooling: Keep an Eye on Greenland

Here are four graphs that governments should think about.

The first graph is of ice core temperature data from Vostok in Antarctica for the past 422,000 years.  Temperatures are shown as variation from surface temperature in 1999 of -55.5 degrees Celsius.

(From:- Petit, Jean-Robert; Jouzel, Jean (1999): Vostok ice core deuterium data for 420,000 years. PANGAEA,

 We are living in an inter-glacial period of unusual warmth, the Holocene, but previous interglacials were 2 to 3 degrees warmer than the present.  Between these brief interglacials are 100,000 year long glacial periods.  As the US National Climatic Data Centre says, “Glacial periods are colder, dustier, and generally drier than interglacial periods.”

We are lucky to be living now- life would be pretty hard for the small population the world could support in a glacial period.

Graph 2 shows just the last 12,000 years.  We are at the extreme right hand end.

Note that Vostok temperatures have fluctuated between +2 and -2 degrees relative to 1999.

There are several ways of identifying the start and end of interglacials.  I have chosen points when Antarctic temperatures first rise above zero and permanently fall below zero relative to 1999.  Graph 3 shows the length of time between these points for the previous three interglacials compared with the Holocene.

The Holocene has lasted longer than the previous three interglacials: and is colder.

Many scientists think glacial periods start when summer insolation at 65 degrees North decreases enough so that winter snowfall is not completely melted and therefore year by year snow accumulates.  Eventually the area of snow (which has a high albedo i.e. reflects a lot of sunlight) is large enough to create a positive feedback, and this area becomes colder and larger.  Ice sheets form, and a glacial period begins.  This is a gradual process that may take hundreds of years.

Well before global temperatures decrease, the first sign of a coming glacial inception will be an increasing area of summer snow in north-eastern Canada, Baffin Island, and Greenland.

I could find no data for northern Canada or Baffin Island, but it is possible to deduce summer snow area for Greenland.

Graph 4 shows the minimum area of snow at the end of summer in Greenland.  (Data from Rutgers University, calculated from North America including Greenland minus North America excluding Greenland.)

The area of unmelted snow at the end of summer in Greenland has grown by about 100,000 square kilometres in the past 30 years.  At this rate Greenland will be completely covered in snow all year round in about 45 years.

Caution: there was no glacial inception in the Little Ice Age- other factors may be involved, cloudiness being one.  Further, a 30 year trend is just weather, and may or may not continue- but with the Holocene already longer and colder than previous interglacials, summer snow cover is one indicator we ignore at our peril.

Cold is not good for life.

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8 Responses to “Global Warming or Global Cooling: Keep an Eye on Greenland”

  1. Viv Forbes Says:

    That is a well prepared and very sound post thanks. May we post on Saltbush pointing to your post?



    Viv Forbes Executive Director The Saltbush Club

  2. kenskingdom Says:

    Certainly you may.


  3. billinoz Says:

    Hi Ken, You have been silent for so long I wondered if you had given up the ghost.

    I’m glad you are still with us and examining the data re ice ages & inter glacials.

    Thank you !

  4. Peter Newland Says:

    We don’t believe climate alarmists’ ‘fiddle-factors’ to adjust historic temperatures, or their tree-ring proxies to make fraudulent temperature J-curves. Alarmists are hopelessly wrong in predicting rainfalls, temperatures and sea levels even a decade ahead. So why should we take any notice of ice-core proxy models of temperature that attempt to extrapolate temperatures hundreds of thousands of years back in time with accuracies of a degree or two?

    Granted that ice cores track known history relatively well for the last few thousand years, but hundreds of thousands of years are allegedly detectable in the tiny fraction of ice volume near the bottom of the cores. It’s like claiming that an outer tree-ring represents one year near the bark, while claiming to see a thousand rings per millimetre at the tree centre. It’s out of proportion, but often ignored in the desire to confirm of ideological assumptions.

    Further, how does an ice age start if “(g)lacial periods are colder, dustier, and generally drier than interglacial periods”? Cold temperatures and low humidity generates very little snow which couldn’t start an ice age. Perhaps that’s why there are dozens of competing theories which contradict each other re how ice-ages start. There is no agreed ice-age theory.

    A better explanation would seem to be abnormal tectonic action causing significant long-term ocean warming and hence large storms and high snowfalls that built up and accumulated until eventually the oceans were cool enough that the polar seas froze and then stayed frozen, even in summer, leaving us with an ice age that eventually ended a few thousand years ago. Such an event could explain the existing ice-cores that show ice layers consistent with known history and very little below that.

    But of course that is ruled out by ideology that says it sounds too much like Noah’s flood – but without giving a better mechanism for how an ice age starts or how to explain geology.

    • kenskingdom Says:

      You say ” Cold temperatures and low humidity generates very little snow which couldn’t start an ice age..”
      The cold temperatures and low humidity are a result of a glacial, not a cause. Glacials commence when temperature and humidity are high.

      • Peter Newland Says:

        Correct. An Ice Age requires glaciation which requires vast amounts of snow which requires a warm wet atmosphere from warm oceans. Then, only when there’s enough snow and glaciation built up on mountains, and the oceans cool and finally freeze in summer, do we get an Ice age. That can’t happen in less than hundreds of years.

        Further, the evidence shows that the Siberian and Alaskan lowlands were never glaciated. The snow accumulated on the mountains, not the lowlands near the relatively warm arctic oceans. So, the lowlands remained suitable habitat for the millions of woolly mammoths that lived there – until the arctic oceans finally stayed frozen all summer and the mammoths, in their millions, remain today, preserved in the permafrost.

        This indicates that the total depth of the ice-cores can be explained wholly within the Holocene. The top of the ice cores correlates fairly well with known historical events and climate changes over the last few thousand years. The lower sections of the ice-cores, which supposedly cover four hundred thousand years, are much thinner. But how could these thin layers remain frozen for such long times when the oceans were clearly not frozen?

        If we apply Occam’s Razor, we can explain both ice-core and mammoth data with a single ice age near the start of the Holocene, before the lowlands were frozen, when the arctic ocean was clearly warm. So instead of hypothesising many hundreds of thousands of years and multiple ice-ages, all we need is: a single Holocene period starting with benign weather and well-fed mammoths; interrupted by tectonic activity that heated the ocean and caused raging snow storms; that caused glaciation and finally freezing of the arctic ocean, even all summer; and so all the mammoths froze to death; and we have ice-core and perma-frost data compatible with that.

        That explains how an ice age can start, compatible with the data – unlike more popular explanations that have trouble: explaining how an ice age can start; explaining the mammoths and the unglaciated Siberian and Alaskan lowlands etc.

        So, it’s best to stick to historical data of weather and sun cycles that points to a coming cooling cycle rather than being side-tracked by ice-age theories that have the same dubious rigour as the fraudulent Hockey-Stick curve (that I misnamed as J-curves earlier).

  5. Peter Newland Says:

    Please prefix my earlier comment with:
    I agree with your caveats and that cold is not good and that a cooling period may be coming.

    But are ice core theories of any real value help? Note that there is no consensus on the mechanisms that cause an ice age, while the ages attributed to ice cores depend on numerous assumptions that can not be tested or proved beyond the latest few thousand years of recorded history.

    In contrast the solar activity correlations with temperature over historic times would seem a far more reliable approach.But that’s a different topic and your readers may be interested in a brief critique of ages and temperatures claims for ice cores.

  6. Marc Hendrickx Says:

    The long-term trend is the more important one and reflects climate change in the strict sense. We have been getting carried away with minor temperature hiccups when we should be watching that very large truck approaching in the rearview mirror.

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