Our Next Ice Age: Tomorrow
Essay on Science by John T. Cullen
A Few Quick References
Thermohaline circulation (THC)
Shutdown of Thermohaline Circulation
NOTE 2020: I originally published this fun article at Fictionwise during the early 2000s. A highly technical, educated, mostly young readership loved my journalism on history, science, and lifestyles. They gave it high ratings. I recently (2000) republished it as a Kindle article. Although based on much science research, it is a fun bit of scientific and journalistic speculation. Global warming can indeed shut down the THC, with further catastrophic and chaotic results than we've already seen. Food for thought!
You may have a vast, cold surprise in store. Scientists look at all possible scenarios—including a startling, counter-intuitive global climate possibility: that global warming (which is very much real and deadly) may actually trigger a sudden, violent self-correcting mechanism on our planet, leading to a near instant ice age in our own time. We do need serious clean energy to survive along with the polar bears, penguins, and many other speciesbut we can prepare for all outcomes. Don’t throw away those snow tires yet, and keep your rubber boots in the hall closet. You may need them.
Climate change is not a theory but a factspecifically, because it’s always been there. Climate change is as normal as gravity and rocks. Contrary to the self-serving lies of dirty oil, gas, and coal corporations and their paid political stooges (remember when a tiny minority of unscrupulous doctors were paid to tell us smoking does not cause lung cancer?) there has never been a moment in earth’s history without climate change. Basic fact also: weather is what happens in your town; climate is what happens to continents and the globe on a huge scale.
Scientists (the real ones) tell us global climate change has been a fact for eons. Scientists know a lot about recent major warming and cooling within the ever-present law of climate change. For example, a Medieval warm spell from about 850 to about 1350 considerably warmed things up. Sunny England became a wine exporter for a few centuries. At times, the Rhine and the Thames dried up due to hot summers.
Conversely, during the Little Ice Age (circa 1350-c1850), the Rhine and the Thames Rivers froze over in winter. You could walk across the Rhine around Christmas time during some years (unthinkable today), and people ice skated and held picnics on the frozen Thames in London during Charles Dickens’ time—but not for long.
Our current warming, starting around 1850, was different due to vastly increased populations, belching smoke from factories and new steam ships, and later a miasma of carbon exhaust from hundreds of millions of cars and planes. The Industrial Revolution brought severe changes that are still ongoing. We’ve seen the infamous London Fog and L.A. Smog. In the 1850s, the Thames became a clogged sewer causing the Great Stink. Experience has shown that intervention can improve things in small measures—but we are approaching a point of no return.The cattle we eat, alone, belch vast clouds of methane farts that kill ozone and let in killer ultraviolet rays. The earth is a giant greenhouse baking away with us in it. Scientific models have predicted wild swings of regional weather, with crazy winters and summers—all of which have come true.
But how crazy can the climate actually get? Remember, weather is what happens in your town. Climate is what happens regionally and globally. We assume that global warming will lead to a disappearance of the polar ice caps by mid-century and the extinction of penguins, polar bears, and many other species.
However, there is a startling, counter-intuitive theory that the Earth’s extreme warming could actually trigger a new ice age—the first in over 10,000 years. An even newer hypothesis suggests the cold snap could hit very fast, once the trigger is pulled. Key to the Instant Ice Age scenario is the earth's Global Ocean Temperature Conveyor (GOTC), which keeps the global climate in balance. Disturb that, and anything is possible. The GOTC holds the key to Earth's future. Global warming and melting ice caps are the gun--when will the trigger be pulled?
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