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Sunday, August 14, 2005

Climate Crash: Abrupt Climate Change And What It Means For Our Future

A few years ago, I read an article about climate change: the concern was that climate change might not be a continuous process as most folks might believe (naively), but that it could flip-flop between cold and warm states for unknown, chaotically driven reasons. I was extremely skeptical that such theories would in fact pan out, given the recent history of climate change, but this book (which is more about the theory behind abrupt climate change and less about the implications) shows how the theory has become more than just speculation and is now the primary theory behind the history of Earth's climates.

Of course, my pessimism about the human race says that we won't do anything about it until it's too late.

Down in the core below 2750 meters, in ice that the Europeans were confident represented the period of Eemian warmth about 120,000 years ago, oxygen isotope data showed two especially large and sudden plunges towards ice age cold. In one episode, average temperatures apparently plunged 25 degrees F for about 70 years. The only period of relative stability during the Eemian came during the last 2,000 years of its warmest stage.

"The unexpected finding that the remainder of the Eemian period was interrupted by a series of oscillations, apparently reflecting reversals to a `mid-glacial' climate, is extremely difficult to explain," the Euroepans wrote. "Perhaps the most pressing question is why similar oscillations do not persist today, as the Eemian period is often considered an analogue for a world slightly warmer than today's." Given the history of the last 150,000 years, they wrote, the past 8000 years "has been strangely stable."

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