[Note: This essay discusses a theory that some people might consider as impossible, and it may very well be, even though there is some support for the idea that continental position plays a role in major ice ages. As seen below, Milankovitch cycles resulting in insolation variance is a leading theory that seems much more plausible as a driver than the one proposed by Voisin below. However, exposing such ideas to open discussion is the surest way to sort out the possible from the impossible, and Mr. Voisin expects such challenges. So, beat it up, and let's see what is left. - Anthony]
An Engineer’s Hypothesis: A Geo-Reactor Explanation of Major Climate Change
Guest essay by Ronald Voisin
The AGW theory supposes a powerful, pivotal, positive-feedback role for CO2. This is certainly not so. See my previous WUWT postings. Something else drives climate change, and we do not as yet know what that is. It has always been difficult for humanity to throw away one theory before another, more promising one, can take its place. Unpleasant as it is, we are often reduced to the conundrum “How else do you explain it?” And that is the situation just now. However, the case in evidence for pivotal, positive-feedback CO2 is not just terribly weak, but rather non-existent and essentially upside-down. It behooves us to look diligently for the true driver(s) of climate change; and especially major events.
Scientists like Hansen and Mann tend to dismiss solar influence. Not because it can’t adequately explain high-frequency but low-amplitude climate change as observed through the Holocene; but rather because it’s difficult to imagine a solar explanation to major climate change in the absence of powerful positive feedbacks. And when you invoke powerful positive feedbacks to create an explanation, you then get caught up into alarming tipping-point hypothesis.
I would like to offer a common-sense climate driver hypothesis that possibly you have heard at least parts of before; one that does not invoke powerful positive feedbacks. But then I would like to offer an investigative method that I suspect you haven’t heard before; and one that you may become interested in promoting – the investigation, that is. Call it an easily tested prediction. I’m a career Engineer/Manager and would like to share some simple perspectives on the issue of major climate change.
I believe that it is obvious that the prime climate driver is not CO2 and that it is also not the Sun (in spite of solar influence being far greater than CO2). The issue with the Sun as not being the prime driver is, I believe, perfectly understandable at the highest and most salient levels (i.e. not buried in some immense depth-of-detail confusion).
The variability of the Sun clearly does have its significant high-frequency but low-amplitude signature on climate (by solar variability, I mean all of its many variants: mean brightness, mean solar distance, sun-spot cycles, coronal discharge events, cosmic ray modulations, etc.). However, the Sun operates on the Earth with huge positive feedbacks. This simple fact all but eliminates it as the prime-driver. When I say prime, I’m talking about the prime-driver-force that accounts for the repeated low-frequency but high-amplitude major transitions to and from major glaciation.
When the Earth is glaciated, it becomes highly reflective of solar radiation and, as such, should latch hard and permanently to this cold glacial state; if not for some other powerful driver that repeatedly overwrites this situation. Similarly, when the Earth is interglacial, it becomes highly absorbing of sunlight and so should latch hard and permanently to this warm interglacial state; if not for some other powerful driver that repeatedly overwrites this situation. But we know that both these situations have been repeatedly overwritten.
If you go through what is required in order to explain these major transitions, with positive-feedback solar-variation, you get a highly choreographed set of improbable conditions. A set of conditions that requires great solar variability (larger than the Earth albedo change) and critical timing (so as not to ice-ball or scorch the planet) and repeated performance (60-70 known events); such that the Sun is easily dismissed as the prime-driver even as it imprints its high-frequency but low-amplitude signature in many significant ways (CO2, of course, suffers this same dilemma).
However, when it comes to low-frequency but high-amplitude climate change, there is a dearth of acceptable scientific explanation. Many are trying to extend the high-frequency but low-amplitude effects of solar and cosmic ray influences into this low-frequency but high-amplitude domain – but with limited to marginal success, at least so far.
Yet it appears manifest that these major climate swings are caused by an overriding and truly “pivotal” driver – one whose influence handily overrides the substantial albedo modulations of solar and cosmic ray influences. I submit that there must be another yet far more consequential driver.
The question then is: “just what is this immensely powerful, low-frequency but high-amplitude driver that repeatedly overwrites (hammers) these stable solar latching-states to cause abrupt major climatic transitions?” I theorize that the answer is very likely the second most profound source of Earthly energy…the central-core nuclear reactor. See Figure 1.
We have known for a long time that the Earth is exothermic and to an extent that would easily cause the primordial interior to go cool long before its 4.5B year’s age. We also know that other planets in our solar system are exothermic; and most likely for the very same reason. It really doesn’t take much leap-of-faith to recognize that there is a huge and very hot nuclear reactor at the center of this currently interglacial Earth. Internal convective motions of the mantel would have thermally homogenized the Earth’s interior save the presence of a centralized heat source.
The earth originated as a molten ball that was entirely molten through and through. We strongly believe that heavy elements like iron and nickel gravitationally precipitated to the center. But what about even heavier elements like thorium and uranium? These radioactive materials would have precipitated to the center of the center. And we also know that sufficient quantity of these radioactive elements with, most importantly, sufficient proximity-density, will spontaneously chain react to generate enormous heat.
So it seems likely that such a reactor may exist. And this explanation becomes the “Occam’s razor” answer to the question: “just where is it that the enormous amounts of heat energy come from that drive ongoing continental drift, tens of thousands of volcanoes, the circulation of the vast internal mantle and all the Earth’s repeated earthquakes?” This energy is not residual primordial heat and it certainly cannot be explained by solar phenomena. Likely, it comes from a central core nuclear reactor. (There are theories to partially explain these phenomena with distributed radioactive decay. However, a central reactor explanation is a much better overall fit – especially as regards the amount of required energy as well as the sustained enormous thermal gradient of the interior. And strong evidence for a central geo-reactor exists while its size is what is disputed). See Figure 2.
But here is the real leap-of-faith (I think not really). We now know that the Sun has complicated internal weather patterns; weather patterns that account for many phenomena we observe. We also know that the Earth has complicated internal weather patterns that account for magnetic-flipping. So how hard can it be to imagine that the center of the core of the Earth might also have internal weather patterns?
One can easily theorize a viscous yet swirling pool of fissioning heavy-materials, at the core of the core of the Earth (estimated at >10 kilometers diameter) – accounting for a significant primary-heat to create and sustain an interglacial period (and to drive more rapidly continental drift along with earthquake/volcanic activity). When peaking in rate of reaction kinetics, chaotic pushes and shoves, from fluid flows outside this center, might occasionally disrupt it; so as to scatter the materials into a relatively larger volume with lower proximity-density. And then the rate of reaction kinetics drops significantly (as would the rate of continental drift and the frequency of earthquake/volcanic activity).
One can also easily theorize that these chaotic pushes and shoves are the rule, rather than exception (i.e. Chaotic pushes and shoves rule when the reaction kinetics are peaking.) such that the reactor spends most of its life at a reduced output with its fissionable materials relatively scattered – just as the Earth spends most of its time in glaciation (for at least the last million years or so and very possibly very much longer). One can also theorize that over extended time, relative stability slowly materializes from the chaos. Gravitational precipitation slowly re-emerges and the reaction kinetics take off for an enduring yet relatively short period of time – just as the Earth experiences sustained, yet relatively short-lived interglacial warming periods. I submit that this predicted weather variability to the reactor’s rate of reaction kinetics is the prime-driver to major Earth climate changes.
The Dutch, until recently, have been trying to finance the building of an anti-neutrino detection facility off the coast of Venezuela for the purposes of beginning to monitor this central-core-reactor and, of course, to simply establish its true presence. However, let’s assume that there is a central core-reactor and that its output variability truly accounts for major climate transitions.
There should then be some correlation of the timing of major climatic transitions to volcanic activity though this has not been established in spite of several attempts. But that might be because we’ve looked for the wrong correlation. And as we know, most all volcanic activity takes place under the oceans so this may also be shielding most of the correlation. But what is more, the AGW CO2-biased attempts at establishing a correlation have looked for major volcanic events to precede transitions from glaciation-to-interglacial (so as to then be identifiable as the cause with their attendant large CO2 release). And this has not been borne out in the attempted correlations (ironically, major volcanic events result in short-term cooling with no identifiable ensuing warming in spite of their large CO2 release).
However, if central-reactor variability is the real cause, then increased volcanic/earthquake activity might more likely follow transitions from glaciation-to-interglacial. And then reductions in volcanic/earthquake activity might more likely signal the reverse transitions from interglacial-to-glaciation. Maybe this correlation can be established if it is objectively looked for? And indeed, a recent study has shown this volcanic correlation may exist.
But here is what I think is the more interesting part – a smoking gun if you will. If this is true, that central reactor variability drives major climate change, then the rate of sub-oceanic crust formation (and the rate of continental drift) should correlate well to major climate transitions; though possibly, or even likely, phase-shifted in time.
We have become quite expert at measuring continental drift and its current rates. If these rates can be plotted backward in time far enough to cover several major climate transitions, a high level of correlation may be observed.
The reason I’m excited about the possibility of a continental-drift-rate correlation to major climate-transitions is that continental-drift (or the creation of sub-oceanic crust) is a slow and continuous process that leaves “continuous” temporal evidence in the ocean floors (like the ice-cores left essentially “continuous” CO2 concentration and temperature evidence). Volcanic/earthquake activities, on the other hand, are spurious “slip-stick” events that do not leave a continuous trail and so any correlation would be necessarily more difficult to establish.
To my knowledge, no attempt has been made to establish this type of correlation (continental drift rate, or crust creation rate, to major climate changes) but it might likely be possible; and it would provide compelling evidence to the hypothesis of central-core reactor-variability as the primary cause of major climate transitions. Additionally, the size and shape of the temporal shift would provide great insight into all manner of thermal dynamics from the center to the crust.
We studied ice-cores at low temporal resolution and came to support erroneous conclusions from our initial analysis (CO2 drives temperature). Then we went back and did a higher temporal resolution analysis which showed a very much more informed result (temperature drives CO2). Your guess is as good as mine to explain why this obvious fact hasn’t already changed our AGW direction (by replacing the “A” with an “N” for Natural Global Warming). But what I’m suggesting is that we do a similar thing with sub-oceanic crust samples to see if the rate of crust growth (or continental drift) does directly correlate to the time-line of major climate swings.
This might be a big project; but it could be very worthwhile; the most worthwhile I can think of. It fits well into the “smoking gun” category. For all I know, a reassessment of the currently taken oceanic crust samples would reveal the correlation; in which case the project scope might be fairly small. However, a higher temporal analysis may be required (not so likely) and that might significantly complicate the size and scope of the project. See Figure 3.
This Earth has spent >11,000 years in this current major thermal upswing (more likely 18-20ky depending how you look at it). On average the Earth spends ~90,000 years glaciated, then 6,000-15,000 years interglacial, before dropping back to ~90,000 more years of glaciation. This cycle has repeated itself for about a million years for sure, and quite possibly very much longer. So it is a stark fact that we are overdue for the next fall to major glaciation.
We have no idea as to exactly when this will occur, as we don’t yet know what even causes these major swings. It could be 500 or 1,000 years in front of us – somewhat unlikely. It could be that the next fall to glaciation is about to start – we just do not yet know. But we do know this: it will happen, it will be abrupt (in geologic terms), and it will be severe to us and all other forms of life here on Earth. And it is not too difficult to imagine that if central-reactor variability is the real cause, then elevated levels of earthquake and volcanic activity would accompany the scattering event which would largely shut the reactor down and precipitate the next fall to glaciation. This just might be where we find ourselves right now today!! (It’s actually more likely that the scattering event has already occurred a short geologic time ago and we are now experiencing the “thermal residue” of diminished reactor output.)
Somehow we have managed to convince ourselves to be looking for a subtle, nuanced needle-in-a-haystack (large variation from tiny perturbation). What we should be looking for is a hammer in an otherwise empty drawer (a significant perturbation). There is nothing subtle about these major climate-transitions. They’re very abrupt and severe (even more so than our “smoothed” back casting Is able to reveal). It is manifest that whatever causes them, it overwrites all other considerations (including solar-induced stable latching states). Yet many of us remain convinced we are sinners who must punish ourselves for nuanced CO2 emissions. This is inconsistent with both the evidence and any common sense evaluation of it. We are not sinners. We are the good custodians of this Earth (as we respond to our misdeeds geologically instantaneously). In fact, we are the “nature” of this Earth. Can you imagine visiting aliens coming to a different conclusion? And enhanced atmospheric CO2 stimulates the proliferation of all forms of life. Inevitably this Earth will fall to the next glaciation and that is what we must begin to prepare for.
It appears manifest that these major climate swings are caused by an overriding and truly “pivotal” driver – one whose influence handily overrides the substantial albedo modulations of solar and cosmic ray influences. I submit that there must be another yet far more consequential driver whose investigation warrants exceptional attention. This essay attempts to point the science community toward a possible explanation of major, low-frequency but high-amplitude climate change.
Admittedly, this essay contains many raw speculations regarding a central core geo-reactor’s potential weather variability. However, science is about testing testable hypothesis. I submit that I’ve laid out a plausible hypothesis that attempts to explain many broad observations – and one that is indeed quite testable. I’ve also made several supporting predictions that are, themselves, individually testable (see a link at the end for the full essay with detailed predictions). At the highest and most salient levels, this hypothesis rings true over extended time and right through to the very present.
Any attempt to confine the scope of major climate change drivers to CO2 or solar phenomena (or both) is bound to run afoul of “first principles”. There simply is no climate “hammer” to be found in these areas. Without a “hammer” we become compelled to search for powerful positive feedback amplifiers to explain major change driven by small perturbations. But such amplifiers always and intrinsically lead to an unstable and precarious system (and therefore, most likely don’t exist). The Earth is some 4.5B years old. And we know that the climate has been remarkably stable (in spite of what we consider to be major climate change) for the last 3.5B or so of those years (~+/-6-10OC). It simply cannot be so that extraordinary interventions allowed a steady stream of calamities to be dodged, each and every time, throughout these last 3.5B years, such that no positive-feedback runaway event could occur. Somewhere there must be a “hammer” – a powerful and overriding, yet limited in extent, driver that comes and goes without feedbacks, positive or negative. Otherwise we would not be here to debate this issue. The intrinsic instability of a system where small perturbations are amplified by powerful positive feedbacks is a system that will soon experience a runaway condition. And in the case of this Earth, it would have happened long ago.
An examination of the ice core data reveals that this hypothetical climate “hammer” is able to move the nominally equilibrated mean temperature of the Earth by as much as 10-12OC as its modulating effect comes in and out of play. I propose that this temperature modulation arises from a core geo-reactor that takes on two primary states. In one state, its fissionable materials are relatively scattered such that the reactor kinetics are characterized by little chain-reaction. It is in this state that the Earth experiences major glaciation. In the other state, the core geo-reactor’s fissionable materials are highly proximate and appropriately moderated such that the reactor kinetics is characterized by a great deal of chain-reaction. It is in this state that the Earth experiences the warming of an interglacial period.
I further propose that in the early history of the Earth, when the nuclear fuel available to power this geo-reactor was more abundant, the geo-reactor’s duty-cycle was characteristically in the “on” state, with only sparsely spaced shorter periods of scattered low activity. Collectively these epochs are known as the “hot house”. As time passed and fuel availability diminished the geo-reactor’s duty-cycle shifted over time to the state of affairs observed over the last several million years (most likely many). This more recent duty-cycle is characterized by generally being in the “off” state with only sparsely spaced shorter periods of high activity. Collectively this more recent period of time is also known as the “ice-house”. (Fuel availability may have shifted the duty-cycle rather abruptly ~25M years ago.)
I further propose that the impetus for generating these recent, sparsely spaced, shorter periods of high activity has become synchronized to the celestial mechanics of the 100k year Milankovitch Cycle of orbital eccentricity (for the last 1My or so). And while the classic interpretation of Milankovitch Theory has been confounded in that it expects glacial events to fall on eccentricity maxima, when empirical data show them falling on eccentricity minima the proposal herein resolves this matter. According to the proposal herein, eccentricity maxima incite high geo-reactor kinetics for a limited period of time (an interglacial), leaving the longer glacial period to exist during eccentricity minima.
Further, during the 4My prior to the last 1My, I propose that the intermediate fuel availability of this period allowed the synchronization to be paced by the smaller, more rapid celestial perturbations of obliquity and/or precession.
If the foregoing statements are true, there should be a significant correlation to be discerned between rates of tectonic activity and large scale Earth temperature swings. In order to determine rates of tectonic activity over time it is required to accurately date sub-ocean crust samples. However, the current state-of-the-art regarding oceanic crust sample dating is very limited. Least count time resolution of this type of sample dating has, until recently, been limited to a few million years leaving no opportunity to observe a tectonic activity rate relationship to the 100ky orbital eccentricity cycle. Recent work at the Univ. of Wyoming has provided an improved, albeit laborious and expensive, dating technology for sub-oceanic crust samples. The new technique yields a least count time resolution of ~10ky which should be readily capable to resolve the proposed relationship.
In the event that the proposed relationship can be definitively established, I further propose that this would constitute substantial and compelling evidence of major climate change being primarily driven by geo-reactor energy output variability. Only a very short time ago we considered solar activity to be substantially invariant. We now know otherwise. It may well be so that the core geo-reactor is similarly highly variant, but yet more consequentially so; and currently synchronized to orbital eccentricity.
A more complete essay in this regard (with responses to critics, detailed predictions, and possible courses of action to avert the next major glaciation) can be found at:
About the Author
Ronald D Voisin is a retired engineer. He spent 27 years in the Semiconductor Lithography Equipment industry mostly in California’s Silicon Valley. Since retiring in 2007, he has made a hobby of studying climate change. Ron received a BSEE degree from the Univ. of Michigan – Ann Arbor in 1978 and has held various management positions at both established semiconductor equipment companies and start-ups he helped initiate. Ron has authored/co-authored 55 patent applications, 24 of which have issued.