A climate too far? Or not? Some insights

Based on all that we’ve learned through direct observation, tracking and data collection, it is certainly not unusual for climate to be variable, much like that of temperature or weather.

We also know it is possible for the temperature one day to be in the 80s and, in the 30s (degrees, of course, expressed in Fahrenheit), one day later, or for such a temperature differential to even occur in the same place, same day.

By extension, one would expect extremes in climate to also occur. However, there is one chief difference here: the time it takes climate to go from one extreme to the other and back typically is in the tens-of-thousands-of-years-range or longer. These “alternations,” “fluctuations,” “oscillations,” if you will, over time have repeated with such consistency, it is like you could set your clock or watch by them. At least, that’s the way it’s been.

But, today, there are indications that this dynamic may be changing.

Case in point: When the last ice age concluded some 12,000 or so years ago, the climate figuratively hit a brick wall. Call it a climate time-out.

Much more, this seems in stark contrast with what we’re seeing in the climate sense in the world today – this latest phenomenon, well, call it a “climate precipice,” and what is commonly being referred to as “climate change.”

But, before I get too far ahead of myself, I want to turn now to the Feb. 15, 2023 “Before global warming, was the Earth cooling down or heating up?”, press release* for some further perspective.

Excerpted from the release:

“We know more about the climate of the Holocene, which began after the last major ice age ended 12,000 years ago, than any other multi-millennial period. There are published studies from a variety of natural archives that store information about historical changes that occurred in the atmosphere, oceans, cryosphere and on land; studies that look at the forces that drove past climate changes, such as Earth’s orbit, solar irradiance, volcanic eruptions and greenhouse gases; and climate model simulations that translate those forces into changing global temperatures. …”

“The challenge up to now has been that our two significant lines of evidence point in opposite directions. Paleo-environmental ‘proxy’ data, which includes evidence from oceans, lakes, and other natural archives, point to a peak global average temperature about 6,500 years ago and then a global cooling trend until humans started burning fossil fuels. …”

“We also know that, whether the numbers trend up or down, the change in global average temperature in the past 6,500 years has been gradual—probably less than 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit). This is less than the warming already measured in the last 100 years, most of which humans have caused. However, because global temperature change of any magnitude is significant, especially in response to changing greenhouse gases, knowing whether temperatures were higher or lower 6,500 years ago is important to our knowledge of the climate system and improving forecasts of future climate.”

“Attempting to resolve the Holocene global temperature conundrum has been a priority for climate scientists in the last decade; …”

Here’s hoping for a definitive finding at least by the next one.

* “Before global warming, was the Earth cooling down or heating up?”, a Feb. 15, 2023 The NAU Review Northern Arizona University news release.

– Alan Kandel

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