Saturday, August 22, 2015

Climate Change


When climate change started to be an issue I'd read about, the theory I first encountered was called the Hamaker-Weaver Hypothesis.

Critics say their theory was just to justify selling rock dust as fertilizer, and the outcome predicted, a next ice age, seems off the mark when the talk on everyone's lips is greenhouse gases, CO2 and methane in particular and how these are contributing to warming, not cooling.

The ozone hole was a different issue, though also gas-related.

However, lets remember that An Inconvenient Truth did not skirt the Ice Age question, and in fact Al Gore's chart showed us plunging into one, after we peak.  The roller coaster will be higher than ever, is what I recall.  Am I wrong?  Am I misreading?

Coincidentally, our city of Portland is awash in particulate carbon today, as fires burn in the east and smoke gets carried along the Columbia Gorge like up a chimney.  We're all chimney sweeps today, and the high albedo or fog or whatever it is, reminds me of the nuclear winter projected should we choose to turn our own cities to fine powder, using Weapons of Mass Suicide (WMSs).

When the blanket of powder descends, one gets colder not hotter, as more of the sunlight bounces back into space, unable to penetrate.  Once the glaciers advance, the sheets of ice do their own reflecting, starting a self-reinforcing cycle.

That was Hamaker-Weaver in a nutshell:  a lot of carbon would belch into the atmosphere, thanks to wild fires and pretty soon that would contribute to falling temperatures and the glaciers would advance, grinding rock to fine powder and in some sense plowing the Earth, performing a kind of top soil restoration in geological time.

The wild fires would in turn be a result of depleted soil, a natural cycle which humans, also natural, were maybe making more exaggerated than ever?  We've had lots of Ice Ages.  Antarctica may have been an important continent for human civilization according to a new Atlantis Hypothesis, one coupled with the Hapgood Hypothesis, that the lithosphere slid quickly at one point:
Hapgood claimed that towards the end of the last ice age, around 12,000 years ago, the extensive mass of glacial ice covering the northern continents caused the lithosphere to ‘slip’ over the asthenosphere, moving Antarctica, during a period of at most several centuries, from a position in the middle latitudes to its current location, and at the same time rotating the other continents.
I forget if the sun cycles played a role or any different axis tilt or magnetic flip or any of that, in Hamaker's thesis.  I don't think so.  Albedo was important.  From Wikipedia:
"CO2 has its primary importance as the initiator of glaciation. Once an extensive ice field is established, its cooling effect maintains the temperature differential which keeps glaciation going. Variations in the amount of CO2 simply cause variations in the world albedo, but they do not stop or start glaciation. The world is committed to glaciation when the ice fields alone reflect enough sunlight to ensure cooling." 
Nick Consoletti got me into climate change literature through that door.  Nowadays we say "terraforming" sometimes, a way of acknowledging that humanity has already transformed the biosphere, not applying a judgement right away, just showcasing the obvious, like in the Qatsi movies.  Whether the global temperature goes up or down, humans are responsible, but then so is life in general, for the current gas mix.  That's called the Gaia Hypothesis and is not that controversial.

Life has a lot at stake, for the sake of argument, and homeostasis should be its business, as adaptation can be expensive and unpredictable.  That sounds like a conservative arguing for the status quo, but it's more just Newtonian mechanics:  it takes external forces to disturb an equilibrium and a tendency of life is to regulate and resist haphazard change, as a form of self-preservation, and yes, I'm verging on tautologies here.

Let me hasten to append that in reviving Hamaker-Weaver as a blog post topic and mentioning a hypothetical Ice Age to come, I am not thereby denying climate change nor global warming theories.  Even under the Hamaker-Weaver Hypothesis this would still be the "going-up side" of the roller coaster, with the descent into Colder Times coming after we peak.