I wonder: do they even read their own press releases?

All these things happened before CO2, AGW, and worldwide worry wartism, and yet someday, somehow, we are warned, it will be worse, except that it isn’t likely. That and this zinger: “Climate models have yet to simulate the full scope of the event.” Well, of course, how can you simulate such an event with such spotty paleo data anyway? And then the author says:

“There’s much less ice left to collapse into the North Atlantic now,” Stager says, “so I’d be surprised if it could all happen again–at least on such a huge scale.”

So why did you lead with this?

How severe can climate change become in a warming world?

Worse than anything we’ve seen in written history, according to results of a study appearing this week in the journal Science.

At least they didn’t claim that the ancient megadrought was somehow “teleconnected” to our current CO2 level through time. That’s probably the next big breakthrough.

Extreme megadrought in Afro-Asian region likely had consequences for Paleolithic cultures

Photo of a boat on the shoreline of Lake Tanganyika.
A boat on Lake Tanganyika today; the lake’s ancient surface water level fell dramatically.
Credit and Larger Version

From the National Science Foundation

How severe can climate change become in a warming world?

Worse than anything we’ve seen in written history, according to results of a study appearing this week in the journal Science.

An international team of scientists led by Curt Stager of Paul Smith’s College, New York, has compiled four dozen paleoclimate records from sediment cores in Lake Tanganyika and other locations in Africa.

The records show that one of the most widespread and intense droughts of the last 50,000 years or more struck Africa and Southern Asia 17,000 to 16,000 years ago.

Between 18,000 and 15,000 years ago, large amounts of ice and meltwater entered the North Atlantic Ocean, causing regional cooling but also major drought in the tropics, says Paul Filmer, program director in the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Division of Earth Sciences, which funded the research along with NSF’s Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences and its Division of Ocean Sciences.

“The height of this time period coincided with one of the most extreme megadroughts of the last 50,000 years in the Afro-Asian monsoon region with potentially serious consequences for the Paleolithic humans that lived there at the time,” says Filmer.

The “H1 megadrought,” as it’s known, was one of the most severe climate trials ever faced by anatomically modern humans.

Africa’s Lake Victoria, now the world’s largest tropical lake, dried out, as did Lake Tana in Ethiopia, and Lake Van in Turkey.

The Nile, Congo and other major rivers shriveled, and Asian summer monsoons weakened or failed from China to the Mediterranean, meaning the monsoon season carried little or no rainwater.

What caused the megadrought remains a mystery, but its timing suggests a link to Heinrich Event 1 (or “H1″), a massive surge of icebergs and meltwater into the North Atlantic at the close of the last ice age.

Previous studies had implicated southward drift of the tropical rain belt as a localized cause, but the broad geographic coverage in this study paints a more nuanced picture.

“If southward drift were the only cause,” says Stager, lead author of the Science paper, “we’d have found evidence of wetting farther south. But the megadrought hit equatorial and southeastern Africa as well, so the rain belt didn’t just move–it also weakened.”

Climate models have yet to simulate the full scope of the event.

The lack of a complete explanation opens the question of whether an extreme megadrought could strike again as the world warms and de-ices further.

“There’s much less ice left to collapse into the North Atlantic now,” Stager says, “so I’d be surprised if it could all happen again–at least on such a huge scale.”

Given what such a catastrophic megadrought could do to today’s most densely populated regions of the globe, Stager hopes he’s right.

Stager also holds an adjunct position at the Climate Change Institute, University of Maine, Orono.

Co-authors of the paper are David Ryves of Loughborough University in the United Kingdom; Brian Chase of the Institut des Sciences de l’Evolution de Montpellier in France and the Department of Archaeology, University of Bergen, Norway; and Francesco Pausata of the Geophysical Institute, University of Bergen, Norway.

-NSF-

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42 thoughts on “I wonder: do they even read their own press releases?

  1. It must have been caused by all the CO2 released 16,000 to 17,000 years ago by humans burning coal to power their cities. Clearly it is not possible for such dramatic climate change to have natural causes. The IPCC and all the leading climate scientists agree that if they cannot explain climate change, then the only alternative left is that it must be caused by human activity.

    They make this claim in the current IPCC report. 400 years ago the scientists of the day blamed climate change on witches, and they burned the witches and eventually this helped heat the earth and the LIA ended. Of course today we know that the real cause is the CO2 pollution from cars, so the solution will be for everyone to stop using oil and make their cars wind driven.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Land_sailing

  2. This requires an ice age to kick it off. Pardon me if I put it fairly low down in my list of worries. Did they happen to mention the time when the Sahara was green? Perhaps there is a wide range of climate which we could consider natural?

  3. I despair, I truly do.

    This is science a la James Cameron. We had a saying in Yorkshire when I was growing up .. . .

    “if my uncle had tits he’s be my aunt” . . .

    If this if that, so what.

  4. Dam see what happens if you have a large population of very big grass eating animals passing large amounts of methane, a very AGW type gas (sarc).
    Wonder who paid for the study, no wonder the USA is broke.
    keep smiling chaps, I love this nonsense adds to the cackle factor.

  5. Looking at Chicken entrails. period, throw some tea leaves in there, too.
    We have no idea even today…

  6. Simultaneous translation: “warming leads to cooling”.

    We can’t win. We’re hooped either way.

  7. ferd berple says:
    February 25, 2011 at 8:17 am

    It must have been caused by all the CO2 released 16,000 to 17,000 years ago by anatomically modern humans burning coal to power their cities.

    Bold is mine.

    If you want to be a scientist these days, you have to be more pedantic.

    /kidding.

  8. Strange to think that our ancestors had gas guzzling SUV’s all those years ago. Shame that they must of all rusted away to dust and destroyed the evidence.

    I think the explanation they are pushing is just too simple.

  9. “Worse than anything we’ve seen in written history.” Again, let’s only go back a blink in time in order to make outlandish statements.

  10. “Ladies and gentlemen, we interrupt our program of dance music to bring you a special bulletin from the Intercontinental Radio News.”

    “Ladies and gentlemen, this is the most terrifying thing I have ever witnessed… Wait a minute! Someone’s crawling out of the hollow top. Someone or… something. I can see peering out of that black hole two luminous disks . . are they eyes? It might be a face. It might be…”

    … Ladies and gentlemen, it’s indescribable. I can hardly force myself to keep looking at it, so awful.”

    — from Orson Welles’ radio version of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, the first time technology was used to convince masses of people of a totally unreasonable, completely fantastic proposition, with the effect of creating a nation-wide panic.

    Personally, I think this kind of thing ought to be against the law. The editors of the journal Science ought to be rounded up and thrown in jail. I’m for free speech and all that, but shouting “fire” in a crowded theater is not acceptable.

    Megadrought my a**. Conflating the beginning of the Holocene with it’s end. Panic and doomsaying. Hysterical alarmist Chicken Little-ism. They ought to be ashamed of themselves, but they are not, and so they ought to be incarcerated for attempting to raise a mass panic. Lock them in a hole, feed them bread and water, and let them contemplate their navels for a few years. That will fix the problem.

  11. Seems to be a Megadrought meme running around out there.

    From the AP story linked above:

    Megadroughts in the past were caused by subtle changes in the Earth’s orbit around the Sun, which were also responsible for periodic ice ages. If these orbital changes were the only influence on the planet’s climate, Earth should be heading into a cool period, Fawcett said in a telephone interview.

    Followed by…

    However, recent temperature statistics indicate that is not the case. The decade that ended last year was the hottest since modern record-keeping began in 1880. The previous decade, 1991-2000, was next-warmest and 1981-1990 was third-warmest.

    So we’ll compare geologic timescale warm-periods to a 30-year span of warming and call them equivalent.

  12. Remember Clara Peller’s line “Where’s the beef?”
    Many of these recent papers remind me of that. Truth be told, there is a bit of interesting research being presented in this paper, and a good deal of modern technology supporting it. Nevertheless, by wrapping it in balderdash and forcing the reader to search for the insight, the “beef” may not be found. I wish they wouldn’t do that.

  13. ferd berple says:
    February 25, 2011 at 8:17 am
    . . . blamed climate change on witches, and they burned the witches . . .

    Interesting connection you point to. Anyone not familiar with the fungus that can form on rye grain in cool damp weather should investigate. For a start, look at this:

    http://www.uh.edu/engines/epi1037.htm

  14. Like all Climate Psyentists, they have to continually try to fit the Warmist narrative with whatever facts they find. As usual, they have things completely backwards. What they’re describing are in fact Ice Age conditions, where mega-droughts and deserts were the norm, sea levels were 400 feet below today’s, and lakes and rivers dry up.
    Their effort to link those conditions to a warming world can only be described as pathetic.

  15. Bruce Cobb, I was just about to write the same. It’s really unbelievable how often the alarmists try to use the dry and unstable climate during glaciations (or in this case, in the turbulent period at the end of an glaciation) to draw conclusions about a possibly warmer climate in the future. They even use it to argue for high climate sensitivity, when it’s obvious that climate is much less sensitive during interglacials than during glaciations (the idea of a constant, temperature-independent sensitivity is ridiculous in the first place, but I won’t try to elaborate on that now).

    Looking at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Vostok_Petit_data.svg – it must have been pretty dry a couple of thousand years earlier, around 20000 years ago, when CO2 and temperatures were at their lowest – and dust peaked.

  16. And now you understand why I dropped my membership in the AAAS. It now stands for And Anything [snip] Say. (Save ya the trouble moderator, and thanks for your efforts.)

  17. Of course there was a megadrought in Northern Africa and surrounding regions beginning as the Ice Age began the shift toward an Interglacial. It was not caused by any discharge of ice dammed lakes such as Glacial Lake Agassiz in North America.

    During an Ice Age the polar zone of climate expands toward the Equator. All other climate zones are squeezed or moderated in some way. The most dramatic change is in the desert zone which lies approximately between 15 and 30° of latitude. Here the change is between arid, as now and called an Interpluvial, and wet as it was during the Ice Age and called a Pluvial, after the Latin word for rain.

    The current desert zone is created by downward flow of air on the poleward side of the Hadley Cell. Moisture that is evaporated at the Equator either falls back as tropical rain or is transported to the middle and high latitudes. It carries the latent heat energy with it and is the major transport mechanisms of heat energy offsetting the energy imbalance between the Equator and Poles.

    During the Ice Age most of that moisture falls between 15 and 30° thus making the region wetter and able to sustain grasses and trees, but reducing energy transfer to the middle and high latitudes. This acts as a positive feedback to the continuance of the Ice Age. It couples with other positive feedbacks such as the massive albedo change with extended snow and ice cover and the wind pattern shifts such as the massive katabatic flow from the ice sheets. This pattern is only broken by a shift in the external forcing mechanisms of the SUn/Earth relationships and solar output.

    Lakes also form in the Pluvial of which the remnants remain in the forms of Lake Chad in Africa and Lake Eyre in Australia. Vast aquifers were also formed under the deserts such as the massive ones under the Sahara.

    During the panic over the Sahelian drought back in the 1980s governments planned to offset the trend of Lake Chad drying up. For example, there was a UN proposal to divert water from the Congo River through the Central African Republic to recharge the lake.

    Ironically, Khadaffi in Libya put in place massive pumps to extract water from the aquifers to ‘green’ the desert. A reporter pointed out the water placed there during the Ice Age was not being replaced (an extremely slow recharge rate) and at the rate he was pumping it would be gone in 30 years. His response – So will I. He is still hanging on – barely.

  18. It was caused by the residents of Atlantis, who had the misfortune of building their civilization below the current sea level.

  19. There is a famous Monty Python skit were two men try to outdo each other on who had the worst hardships in their childhoods. It make me think of climate scientists who feel compelling to ratchet up disaster meter in order to outdo each other.

    The Law of Unintended Consequences say that the more outlandish these predicted disasters are, the more people will turn away from the whole comedy show that is now passed off as climate science. Let these climate clowns spew their disaster jokes, the crazier the better because it helps support the skeptics’ position more than harms it.

  20. “Worse than anything we’ve seen in written history”

    And precisely how far back does written history go? 5000 years or so.

  21. My extremely complex and impressive climate model clearly shows that the massive amount of CO2 from man’s burning of fossil fuels has caused a chronoton rift formed high in the atmosphere during the extreme temperatures of 1998. This spatial anomaly is polarized such that only anthropogenic CO2 is attracted to and can cross the barrier. A percentage of anthropogenic greenhouse gas is thus being transferred back in time to approximately 18,000 years ago. This is why there was the vast increase in ice melt and an ending of the ice age, AND why our present day warming rate has unexpectedly slowed (although it hasn’t stopped) since 1998. If this were occurring, things would certainly be far worse than they already are – but the transfer isn’t sufficient to save us from catastrophic global warming within the next 50 to 100 years. Meanwhile, should that rift close, there will be 6 billion climate disruption/weirding refugee’s by 2020. Maybe 2030. Then where will we all be? Clearly we cannot cope with disaster of that magnitude.

    There. See. It all makes sense now. We’re not only utterly ruining our own future, but we caused the greatest natural disaster within known human history also. Both the paleodata and computer models prove it. Oh, the horror.

    /illogic&unreality&sarc&joke

  22. Bruce Cobb and Espen beat me to pointing out the absurdity of comparing megadrought conditions when an ice age starts transitioning to an interglacial to present day conditions. That bit of ‘logic’ from the article blew my mind.

    Bruce, LOVE the “Psyentists.” Don’t believe I’ve seen that one before, and it seems oh-so appropriate in oh-so many ways!

  23. I would dearly like some mega drought to whisk its tail over southern England. Its rained every day for over 4 weeks now. Even the grass on the lawn is growing mouldy.
    A yard-and-a-half of global warming wouldn’t go amiss, either.

  24. The earth weighs roughly 6 x 10 e24 tonnes, the total amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is about 3 x 10 e12 tonnes. There is 10 e12 more earth than CO2, unless CO2 is raised to temperatures much, much higher than the surface of the sun, there is no way it can raise the temperature of the earth. Expecting the energy captured by CO2 to raise the earth’s temperature is like putting one drop of boiling water into a swimming pool and expecting a measurable increase in the pool’s temperature. There just isn’t enough CO2 to capture and contain enough energy to significantly change the energy content and temperature of the earth.

  25. Atlantis was to blame. They emmitted huge amounts of C02 at the hovercreaft factories. The hovercrafts were just giant rocks that were magnetically charged to float above the planet. They would ride these cloud rocks from The bermuda Triangle (where Atlantis was before it was sunk by a meteor)

  26. “The records show that one of the most widespread and intense droughts of the last 50,000 years or more struck Africa and Southern Asia 17,000 to 16,000 years ago.”

    “Between 18,000 and 15,000 years ago, large amounts of ice and meltwater entered the North Atlantic Ocean, causing regional cooling but also major drought in the tropics…”

    “What caused the megadrought remains a mystery, but its timing suggests a link to Heinrich Event 1 (or “H1″), a massive surge of icebergs and meltwater into the North Atlantic at the close of the last ice age.”

    I am a slightly confused. Didn’t the last ice age close about 10,000 years ago? The Wisconsian Ice Sheet hadn’t even fully retreated from southern Canada until 7-8000 years ago. They seem to be at least 5000 years too early (probably more).

  27. These people have truly no clues about atmospheric circulation and how climate changes are implemented through its workings.
    They should read Marcel Leroux updated thesis on “Meteorology and Climate of Tropical Africa”, Springer Praxis 2001, that was a revised and updating of his 1983 PhD. His PhD was sponsored by the WMO back then for it was a ground breaking study.
    For those who wish to familiarize quickly with the work of Leroux, read this article and clearly the NSF clowns better get acquainted with this work PDQ!

    http://ddata.over-blog.com/xxxyyy/2/32/25/79/Leroux-Global-and-Planetary-Change-1993.pdf

    They’ll get the answer that their “megadrought” is the result of rapid mode of circulation established during a cooling period and not at all global warming!

  28. Lets see now:

    1. Heinrich events cause large scale drought at low latitudes (and we already knew that, the subject has been extensively researched).

    2. Heinrich events are large scale discharges of icebergs from the Laurentide ice cap in the Hudson bay area into the North Atlantic

    3. There is currently no glaciers in the Hudson bay area

    4. Thus Heinrich events cannot happen, unless we first have an ice age.

    5. So what is all the excitement about?

  29. Steven Goddard highlights some of the press release:

    They suggest, that in addition to the convergence-zone move, the tropical rainfall systems over Africa and Asia must have weakened dramatically, perhaps in response to cooling sea surface and less water evaporating off it.

    The next question, of course, is whether an extreme megadrought could strike again in our warming world.

    “There’s much less ice left to collapse into the North Atlantic now, so I’d be surprised if it could all happen again – at least on such a huge scale,” Stager said in a statement.

    I also note the words “less water evaporating off it.” I thought AGW meant increasing evaporation.

    Here is an excellent piece on megdroughts from the Resilient Earth.

    http://www.theresilientearth.com/?q=content/monsoons-megadroughts

  30. Consider “Lake Effect” rains. They were once a daily part of much of Africa and Asia. Their absence is a large part of the recurrent drought. The cooling system is clogged with weeds and silt. The aquifer recharge areas are blocked, and the ground water is not replenished. If we weed and dredge the lakes and streams, we can have back the “Lake effect” rains. In Lakes Chad and Jipe, it is Typha, in Lake Victoria, it is water hyacinth. The Nile tributaries appear to be more Phragmites and Papyrus. You’ll find the same troubles in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Tibet. The weeds are all biomass, waiting to be biofuel.

  31. I am currently re-reading Jules Verne’s “Around the Moon” and was amused by his comments on scientists of his time. Sound eerily like those supporters of CAGW today.
    “Those gentlemen (readers) who regularly conned the scientific magazines took every word of the learned Professor’s dispatch for gospel–or rather for something of far higher value, and more strictly in accordance with the highly advanced scientific developments of the day.”

    To Others, it went on “the rest of the dispatch was mere twaddle, though asserted with all the sternness of a religious dogma and enveloped in the usual scientific slang.”

    My favorite passage though is: “Science, or rather pseudo-science, always exerts a mysterious attraction of an exceedingly powerful nature over the generality–that is the more ignorant portion of the human race. Assert the most absurd nonsense, call it a scientific truth, and back it up with strange words which, like “potentiality,” etc, sound as if they had a meaning but in reality have none, and nine out of every ten men who read your book will believe you. Acquire a remarkable name in one branch of human knowledge, and presto! you are infallible in all. Who can contradict you, if you only wrap up your assertions in specious phrases that not one man in a million attempts to ascrtain the real meaning of? We like so much to be save the trouble of thinking, that it is far easier, and more comfortable to be led than contradict, to fall in quietly with the great flock of sheep that jump blindly after their leader than to remain apart, making one’s self ridiculous by foolishly attempting to argue.”

    Regards,

    John

  32. John Stover,

    Thanks for those passages. The last one is very prescient ["Acquire a remarkable name in one branch of human knowledge, and presto! you are infallible in all."]: in Copenhagen the actor Brad Pitt apparently has the expertise to save the world. And the line about “specious phrases” certainly applies to Jerome Ravitz’ unquantified [except by Jerome Ravitz] vague and undefined terms like “quality.”

    The climate clique [the "Team"] has all the disingenuousness, faults and dishonesty of Elmer Gantry, but with none of his charm.

  33. There is a need for so many inches of column each day that SOMETHING has to be written. And since sensationalism sells rather than information, that something has to be dripping with red.

    It is a shame that policies at a government level are driven in this way. Not that the American war on Cuba and San Juan hill didn’t start by Hearst wanting to sell more newspapers ….

  34. tty says:
    February 25, 2011 at 11:56 pm

    Lets see now:

    1. Heinrich events cause large scale drought at low latitudes (and we already knew that, the subject has been extensively researched).

    2. Heinrich events are large scale discharges of icebergs from the Laurentide ice cap in the Hudson bay area into the North Atlantic

    3. There is currently no glaciers in the Hudson bay area

    4. Thus Heinrich events cannot happen, unless we first have an ice age.

    5. So what is all the excitement about?

    I am with you. The scientist who wrote the paper is also. He says there isn’t enough ice floating around to make this happen.

  35. Why is everyone talking about Nature and Science? I read them while I am waiting for checkout at the supermarket. But if you want the facts, you go for Cosmopolitan; no question about it.

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