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Monday, June 3, 2013

Flashback to 1906 - another ice age coming...

Sou | 11:18 PM Go to the first of 4 comments. Add a comment

... in 200,000 years

From the The North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times (Tasmania : 1899 - 1919)


Speak no more of the glacial epoch as 80,000 years agone. The glacial epoch is ahead. Sir Robert Ball says that the next ice age is due in 200,000 years. In the course of long periods the earth's orbit round the sun changes from being nearly a circle, as it is now, to a long ellipse or oval, and in the last case the summer may be only 166 days long, while the winter lasts 199 days. There is a short hot summer, followed by a long, excessively cold winter, so that more ice is formed in the cold than can be melted in the warm season.

On purely astronomical grounds, even if geologists had not discovered the ice ages from the records of the globe's surface, astronomers would have demonstrated that ice ages must have happened. When the next chilly epoch arrives posterity may see all Northern Europe under an ice-cap that will o'ertop the highest mountains and last for many thousands of years.

Interesting to look back over old news articles.  This one pre-dates Milutin Milanković by a few years.

About Sir Robert Ball

Source: Vanity Fair via Wikipedia

Sir Robert Stawell Ball FRS (1 July 1840, Dublin – 25 November 1913, Cambridge) was an Irish astronomer. He worked for Lord Rosse from 1865 to 1867. In 1867 he became Professor of Applied Mathematics at the Royal College of Science in Dublin.

In 1874 Ball was appointed Royal Astronomer of Ireland and Andrews Professor of Astronomy in the University of Dublin at Dunsink Observatory.[1] In 1892 he was appointed Lowndean Professor of Astronomy and Geometry at Cambridge University at the same time becoming director of the Cambridge Observatory. His lectures, articles and books (e.g. Starland and The Story of the Heavens) were mostly popular and simple in style. However, he also published books on mathematical astronomy such as A Treatise on Spherical Astronomy. His main interest was mathematics and he devoted much of his spare time to his "Screw theory". He served for a time as President of the Quaternion Society. His work The Story of the Heavens is mentioned in the "Lestrygonians" chapter of James Joyce's Ulysses.

He was the son of naturalist Robert Ball [2] and Amelia Gresley Hellicar.

More here on Wikipedia.


  1. Astronomical ideas for climate change go back to at least Croll, 1861. Adhemar 184x (I forget the year) may have anticipated this, but I haven't been able to get a copy to verify.

    The problem wasn't to notice that astronomy provided appropriate periods, it was to translate how and which variations got turned in to ice age cycles.

    1. Thanks, Robert. I've been trawling through old Australian newspapers. There are some fascinating little bits and pieces in them - often in little papers from small towns like this one. They would probably have had to wait weeks for the ships from Europe or elsewhere to bring them news. I'm thinking this particular editor was interested in science.

    2. Robert's right - if we is being really pedantic, we should talk about "Croll-Milankovitch theory", but poor old Croll is getting forgotten.

  2. If there were a conspiracy of all climatologists for more funding, I would have voted for an ice age, that is much better for science funding than predicting warmer temperatures, which at first thought most people love.


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