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Saturday, October 19, 2013

Denier Weirdness: Wondering Willis Eschenbach wonders does "an ice age cometh"...

Sou | 7:01 AM Go to the first of 7 comments. Add a comment

Wondering Willis "I'm Wonderful" Eschenbach has decided to join the "ice age cometh" deniers at WUWT.  Willis doesn't read scientific papers.  He prefers to "wonder" about stuff.  Today he's wondering about the next ice age and he says he's going to watch the snow cover to see when it's going to arrive.  He writes (archived here):

So … would it not be truly ironic if pollution, in the form of soot and brown carbon,  were all that has been holding off another ice age? And wouldn’t it be a cosmic joke if our efforts to clean up soot and brown carbon pollution were the straw that broke the back of the Holocene, and ushered in the new ice age?
Well, it would not only be ironic, it would be pretty near impossible for earth to enter an ice age this side of 50,000 years ahead, save a massive nuclear war or a few super volcanic eruptions.

An ice age isn't due for at least 50,000 years, even without AGW

If Willis had bothered to read any science he might have come across this paper from Berger and Loutre in Science.  They calculate that even without global warming, Earth wouldn't start getting cold for at least another 50,000 years.  That's because of the calculated insolation in future years.  Here is a diagram from their paper:
Long-term variations of eccentricity (top), June insolation at 65°N (middle), and simulated Northern Hemisphere ice volume (increasing downward) (bottom) for 200,000 years before the present to 130,000 from now. Time is negative in the past and positive in the future. For the future, three CO2 scenarios were used: last glacial-interglacial values (solid line), a human-induced concentration of 750 ppmv (dashed line), and a constant concentration of 210 ppmv (dotted line). Simulation results from (13, 15); eccentricity and insolation from (19).

Black soot and global warming

How much does soot contribute to global warming?  The IPCC AR5 WG1 Technical Summary has a chart that shows what contributes what.  I've highlighted black carbon.  You can see it makes quite a contribution but nothing like as much as CO2 or CH4.:

Source: IPCC AR5 WG1 Technical Summary

Just so you know, the IPCC report states on page TS-20 that the radiative forcing from black carbon on snow and ice is around 0.04 (0.02 to 0.09) Wm-2, compared to well-mixed greenhouse gases, which exert a forcing of 2.83 (2.54 to 3.12) Wm-2. So even if we were able to stop all black carbon from reaching the snow, it wouldn't make that much difference globally.

On black carbon, some of you might remember the article that showed that black carbon from mid-latitudes doesn't have much effect on the Arctic compared to black carbon from the far north.  This is because when the soot comes from the Arctic itself, it stays at low altitude and gets deposited on the snow and ice.

Northern Hemisphere snow cover is declining in spring

Willis has also put up some charts of snow cover.  The ones he chose don't tell much  of a story.  If he'd wanted to, he could have put up something like northern hemisphere snow cover on a seasonal basis, which would have been more informative.  Notice the change in spring cover compared to the other seasons in the animation below:

Source: Rutgers University Global Snow Lab

Maybe after being called out by Roy Spencer recently, Wondering Willis has decided he might as well give up trying to impress scientific types.  He's hoping to be fêted by the "ice age cometh" brigade at WUWT.

In the comments Willis proves that he doesn't read science by writing (excerpt):
October 18, 2013 at 11:33 am
By all astronomical Milankovitch calculations, we should be falling back into an ice age somewhere around now. To date there’s no sign of it, which is good … but there’s always tomorrow.

And more here from Wondering Willis (excerpt):
October 18, 2013 at 12:38 
Now, when I look at that, I say “Yikes! We could have another ice age at any time”. In part it’s the length of the Holocene, and in part it’s that the other interglacials rose to a peak temperature … and very soon thereafter, they started dropping quickly to glacial temperatures.
The Holocene, on the other hand, rose to a peak, but has only been dropping very slowly. It has maintained a fairly flat plateau for a long, long time now. I see nothing in the historical record to indicate that we couldn’t enter another ice age tomorrow …

To add, in Willis' article he is wondering about albedo and surface temperature.  His chart and wonderings look wonky but I haven't paid that part of his article any attention (archived here).

Berger, A., and M. F. Loutre. "An exceptionally long interglacial ahead?" Science 297.5585 (2002): 1287. DOI: 10.1126/science.1076120


  1. Here's a paper by David Archer and Andrey Ganopolski that says we've already staved off the coming ice age by several hundreds of thousands of years: A movable trigger: Fossil fuel CO2 and the onset of the next glaciation. Also, another paper of interest by Tzedakis and others pins the natural length of this interglacial at ~1500 years from now (with preindustrial conditions): Determining the natural length of the current interglacial

    Keep up the good work!

    1. Thanks, Kaustubh. Interesting complementary studies.

      Here's a link to the full version of the Tzedakis paper in Nature GeoSciences. They worked out that CO2 would have to be less than 240 +/- 5 ppm for another ice age in 1500 years, which is lower than pre-industrial CO2. So it's in line with the other paper I mentioned.

      And here's a link to David Archer and Andrey Ganopolski's full paper. They write:

      The combination of relatively weak orbital forcing and the long atmospheric lifetime of anthropogenic carbon could generate a longer interglacial period than has been seen in the last 2.6 million years. This will have consequences for the major ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland [Huybrechts and De Wolde, 1999], and for the methane clathrate reservoir in the ocean n [Archer and Buffett, 2005].

    2. I think Willis has discovered that snow melts...

    3. If we haven't postponed the next glaciaton yet, we'll know how to when the time comes. If an industrialised society still exists, that is.

  2. This is what you get from a house carpenter.

    1. Any idea as to why the equally clueless Poptech has taken a set against Willis. No - I am not really interested, well yes, I admit I do sometimes follow those clickbait links to gossip about the infamous.

  3. The Willis statement that will never be topped:

    “It was also the time of “free love”. I later learned that (for me at least) love is rarely free, but we were young and didn’t know that yet. At the time I was s_xually involved with three women. Not at the same instant or in the same bed, you understand, but at the same time. ”


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