A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


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Scientific American: black death and slavery cause the little ice age?

Looks like Scientific American has gone a bit “cosmic”: The Little Ice Age was apparently caused by black death, small pox, and slavery. The theory goes that there was a small spikey dip in CO2 levels in 1610, which was man-made. So hold your breath, that means a whole new era should start from then. This small dip of dubious causality, plus the correlation of oddly unclimatic things like slavery, seems to make the spike worthy of an impressive sciencey title, lo, a new era is born  — The start of the Anthropocene.

Let’s not mention that temperatures started falling from 1400 AD. That’s 200 years  before the CO2 spike down. Cause and effect are so passe in postmodern science.

Mass Deaths in Americas Start New CO2 Epoch

Scientific American:

The atmosphere recorded the mass death, slavery and war that followed 1492. The death by smallpox and warfare of an estimated 50 million native Americans—as well as the enslavement of Africans to work in the newly depopulated Americas—allowed forests to grow in former farmlands. By 1610, the growth of all those trees had sucked enough carbon dioxide out of the sky to cause a drop of at least [...]

Sun controls half of the groundwater recharge rate in China for last 700 years

Could this be why climate models do rainfall with all the competence of tea-leaf-reading? Tiwari et al report that as much as 47% of the recharge rates of ground water in China are controlled by the sun. Apparently climate models miss the minor factor of the major cycles.

Try this radical idea on: imagine a world where climate models worked. Not only could the BoM warn people that there would be a drought coming, they could name the region, and the years.

Tiwari et al:

Here for the purpose of comparison of long term ground water recharge rates with long term solar activity, we used the 10-year average sunspot time series, for the period 1300 to 1905 AD, published by Solanki et al., [2004]. Also the additional average annual sunspot number time series (1700 to 2000 AD) is used from data source Solar Influences Data Analysis Centre. In addition to decadal data annual sunspot number data from 1700 to 2000 AD downloaded from Solar Influences Data Analysis Centre is used in the present study. The cross-correlation coefficient (+0.63) between the groundwater recharge rate time series and decadal sunspot number [Solanki et al., 2004] shows that there is statistically significant solar [...]

The North Atlantic jet stream correlates with Solar output over a millennium

A new paper (Moffa-Sánchez et al) reports that they looked at layers of dead plankton in ocean mud (otherwise known as foraminifera in marine sediments) and have reconstructed the temperature and salinity of a couple of spots in the North Atlantic between 818AD – 1780 with data on δ18O and the Mg/Ca ratios. One immediate thought, an aside, is that if this technique works, there is no shortage of ocean mud, surely, and perhaps we could drill and analyze more mud for solar correlations in other places. (I hear foraminifera live in the Southern Hemisphere too). Perhaps no one is looking for the connection with the sun?

Moffa-Sánchez et al find the big climate shifts (the 100-year variations) correlate with total solar irradiance (TSI). See especially that orange line black line track in the d graph below. I stress, correlations don’t mean causation and the mechanism is mere speculation. But I find the graph intruiging. There are a lot of turning points, and in pure “curve fitting” type of analysis, this is a better curve fit than the one with CO2. (Find me a turning point that matches with carbon dioxide!) I suspect we’ll be referring back to this paper, and I [...]

Ocean heat content around Indonesia shows Medieval Warm Period and 2C warmth in holocene

Rosenthal et al have put out quite a humdinger of a paper. They’ve reconstructed the temperature of the water flowing out of the Pacific to the Indian Ocean over the last 10,000 years and as deep as 900m. The Indonesian Throughflow  is pretty significant in global ocean currents. There’s narrow routes for Pacific upper waters to squeeze through to the Indian Ocean through the Makassar and Lombok Straits, and via the Lifamatola Passage through the Banda Sea, and water comes in from both the North and South Pacific.

An important point in global ocean currents where the Pacific flows through to the Indian Ocean.

Points to note (assuming the study is right):

Temperatures started rising around 1700AD –  long before our carbon emissions. That temperatures were much warmer (0.65C)  in 1100AD than they were in 1950. 8,000 years ago water was 1.5 to 2 degrees warmer — isn’t that meant to be a global catastrophe? Apparently coral reefs, fish, and turtles survived.


Figure 4.  Holocene changes in Pacific Ocean heat content. (A) Reconstructed anomalies in Pacific OHC in the 0- to 700-m depth interval for the early Holocene, mid-Holocene, MWP, and LIA periods. Reconstructed anomalies are calculated relative [...]

Melting glacier in Alaska reveals ancient remains of forest – evidence of warm periods

Glaciers that tore trees in half and then froze the stumps are receding again in Alaska to reveal those old remnants of a warmer era. I like these little “concrete” anecdotes, though their true meaning depends on exactly how old these remains are, and whether that timing correlates with warming in other places.

Ancient trees emerge from frozen forest ‘tomb’ Retreat of the Mendenhall Glacier reveals the remains of trees which grew more than 2,000 years ago By MARY CATHARINE MARTIN JUNEAU EMPIRE

The Mendenhall Glacier’s recession is unveiling the remains of ancient forests that have remained frozen beneath the ice for up to 2,350 years.



The most recent stumps she’s dated emerging from the Mendenhall are between 1,400 and 1,200 years old. The oldest she’s tested are around 2,350 years old. She’s also dated some at around 1,870 to 2,000 years old.


Fourier Analysis reveals six natural cycles driving temperatures, no man-made effect: predicts cooling

Thermometer circa 1790

UPDATED: Post note below, with a couple of extra caveats…

Lüdecke, Hempelmann, and Weiss found that the temperature variation can be explained with six superimposed natural cycles. With only six cycles they can closely recreate the 240 year central European thermometer record. There is little “non-cyclical” signal left, suggesting that CO2 might have a minor or insignificant effect.

The three German scientists used Fourier analysis to pick out the dominant cycles of one of the longest temperature records we have. The Central European temperature is an average of records from Prague, Vienna, Hohenpeissenberg, Kremsmünster, Paris, and Munich.

The dominant cycle appears to be about 250 years. There is also a cycle of about 60 years, corresponding to the Atlantic/Pacific decadal oscillations.

Data is of course, always the biggest problem. If we had 10,000 years of high quality global records, we could solve “the climate” within months. Instead, we have short records, and Lüdecke et al, make the most of what we have. The European records are only 240 years long, or (darn) one dominant cycle, and only one region, so to check that the results are valid over longer periods they also analyze a the 2000 year Spannagel Cave [...]

The message from boreholes

There have been suggestions that Jo Nova might be trying to hide or ignore the most recent boreholes graph from Huang et al. So here it is. This is the last 2,000 years according to 6000 boreholes, with the last 100 years also using the “instrumental record” which gives us that hockey-stick uptick at the end. Below I explain the pros and cons of this study and update my thoughts.

Huang and Pollack 2008: Their latest boreholes published study


A borehole sounds like a bit-of-a-stretch as a proxy. How could we tell if the world was warmer in 1066 by drilling a hole in the ground? Yes, fair point. But what makes boreholes useful is that they are global and there is a lot of data: specifically 6,000 holes all over the world.

I’ve been looking at boreholes in more detail, analyzing them in the light of newer proxies. When all the evidence is considered, boreholes turn out be not-much-use at giving us meaningful numbers in degrees C, and in my opinion, not-too-hot at telling us the “when” of an event either. Too much depends on assumptions.

But what are they good for is that, when combined with [...]

Medieval Warm Period found in 120 proxies. Plus Roman era was similar to early 20th Century.

Two major proxy studies, larger than ever, were released in April and June 2012. They show that the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) existed, and was similar to current temperatures. These comprehensive studies suggest current temperatures are not unusual, and that itself is not all that surprising — I’ve mentioned before how there are hundreds of proxy studies showing it was as warm or warmer back then. (CO2science has been documenting them.) But these studies are worth a mention because they are so large.

Climate models cannot explain what caused the warming 1000 years ago, nor the cooling  300 years ago, so they can’t rule out the same factors aren’t changing the climate today (though they claim they can). If climate models can’t explain the past, they can’t predict the future.

The last 12 Centuries

Ljungqvist used 120 proxy records — nearly 3 times as many proxies as previous studies and conclude: “during the 9th to 11th centuries there was widespread NH warmth comparable in both geographic extent and level to that of the 20th century”. Their proxies included ice-cores, pollen, marine sediments, lake sediments, tree-rings, speleothems and historical documentary data.

Ljungqvistet al 2012 Fig. 4. Mean time-series of centennial [...]

Chinese 2,485 year tree ring study shows natural cycles control climate, temps may cool til 2068

A blockbuster Chinese study of Tibetan tree rings by Liu et al 2011 shows, with detail, that the modern era is a dog-standard normal climate when compared to the last 2,500 years. The temperature, the rate of change — it’s all been seen before. Nothing about the current period is “abnormal”, indeed the current warming period in Tibet can be produced through calculation of cycles. Liu et al do a Fourier analysis on the underlying cycles and do brave predictions as well.

In Tibet, it was about the same temperature on at least four occasions — back in late Roman times (those chariots!), then again in the dark ages (blame the collapse of industry), then in the middle ages (the Vikings?), then in modern times (blame the rise of industry).

Clearly, these climate cycles have nothing to with human civilization. Their team finds natural cycles of many different lengths are at work: 2-3 years, 100 years, 199 years, 800 years, and 1,324 years. The cold periods are associated with sunspot cycles. What we are not used to seeing are brave scientists willing to publish exact predictions of future temperatures for 100 years that include rises and falls. Apparently, it will [...]

It wasn’t CO2: Global sea levels started rising before 1800

Fans of man-made global warming frequently tell us seas are rising, but somehow forget to mention the rise started 200 years ago, long before our coal-fired electricity plants cranked up, and long before anyone had an electric shaver, or a 6 cylinder fossil-fuel-spewing engine. Something else was driving that warming trend.

Here is the data from tide gauges going back 300 years from a paper by Jevrejeva et al 2008.

[Graphed by Joanne Nova based on data from Jevrejura et al located at this site PMSML]

This graph was calculated from 1023 tide gauge records [Jevrejeva et al., 2006] going back to 1850.The 2008 study extended the record further using  three of the longest (though discontinuous) tide gauge records available: Amsterdam, since 1700 [Van Veen, 1945], Liverpool, since 1768 [Woodworth, 1999] and Stockholm, since 1774 [Ekman, 1988]. Obviously since there are only three old records, the error bars are a riot.

The Jevrejeva paper is also useful for portraying the 60 year rolling cycle. The regular ups and downs are obvious when the rate of change is plotted (see below).