Jeff Duntemann's Contrapositive Diary Rotating Header Image

April 29th, 2008:

Between Fire and Ice

Sure, maybe the guy's a nut, but I'm a contrarian and I love heresies. There certainly seem to be fewer sunspots this cycle than we're used to, and cooling climate trends are definitely correlated with things like the Dalton Minimum and the Maunder Minimum. I've sometimes wondered if the Little Ice Age was “little” because we aborted it by throwing CO2 into the atmosphere in serious quantities. Absent that, we might all be cavemen in an ice wilderness by now.

Ahh. Maybe the Earth really has a little old lady named Gaia somewhere pulling strings. Maybe prescient whales (or sentient mushroom rings in the English forests) saw it coming and carefully guided the evolution of humanity so that it would control fire. Fire is addictive. Do enough of it, and you can keep the atmosphere warm through the greenhouse effect. Maybe the Earth got tired of being cold, and it evolved us because it didn't have any leg warmers.

Climate is an interesting business. The Earth seems to teeter between fire and ice, but from what we know of our geophysical history it prefers ice. If the sunspot dearth is a leading indicator of reduced solar activity, we may have a few years to do…what? Buy Hummers? Whoops. We already tried that.

Ok, ok, correlation is not causation. I'll shut up. Still… At least in Colorado Springs, this was The Winter That Wouldn't End. And it snowed in Chicago last night. If this keeps up I'm moving back to Arizona, thank you very much. I hear that when the ice sheets get as far south as Nebraska, the mammoth hunting is better there.