New geologic evidence of past periods of oscillating, abrupt warming, and cooling

Guest post by Dr. Don J. Easterbrook, Emeritus Professor at Western Washington University

Two hundred years ago, Charles Lyell coined the phrase “The present is the key to the past.” In today’s highly contentious issues of global climate change, we might well add “The past is the key to the future, i.e., to forecast future geologic events, we must understand past climate changes.  This paper documents past global climate changes in the geologic and historic past.

Recent laser imaging of the Earth’s surface provides new evidence for abrupt, fluctuating, warm and cool climatic episodes that could not have been caused by changes in atmospheric CO2.  In a paper presented at the national meeting of the Geological Society of America in Portland, OR, Professor Don J. Easterbrook, Professor of Geology at Western Washington University, presented new data from airborne laser imagery showing well-defined, previously unknown, multiple moraines deposited by glaciers 11,700 to 10,250 years ago.

At least 9 significant, abrupt periods of warming that resulted in retreat of the Cordilleran Ice Sheet are documented by moraines from successive glacial retreats in the Fraser Lowland of NW Washington l(Fig. 1).  In addition, smaller multiple glacier recessions are found within the more prominent episodes of glacier retreat.  As indicated by the amount of glacier recession between each of the successive moraines, the warming events were of greater magnitude than those observed in recent centuries.

oscillating_climate1

Figure 1.  Successive terminal moraines from short–term glacier recessions caused by climatic warming between 11,700 and 10,250 years ago.

Isotope data from Greenland ice cores and show a consistent pattern of fluctuating warm and cool periods over the past 500 years (Fig. 2).  The average period of warming/cooling oscillations over the past 500 years is 27 years, remarkably similar to the period of alternation between warm and cool Pacific Decadal Oscillation.

oscillating_climate2

Figure 2.  Paleotemperatures derived from oxygen isotope measurements of the GISP2 Greenland ice core.  Red peaks are times of warming and blue are times of cooling.  The average time period for each climatic oscillation is 27 years.

During the past century, two episodes of global warming and two of global cooling have occurred (Fig. 3), all of which can be tied to glacial oscillations, oceanic temperature changes, atmospheric temperature changes, and solar variation.

oscillating_climate3

Figure 3.  Coincidence of Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), global temperature, and glacier fluctuations in the North Cascades.  Glaciers advanced during the 1880–1915 cool period when the PDO was cool, then when the PDO switched to its warm mode, global temperatures warmed, and glaciers retreated from ~1915–1945.  The PDO changed from warm to cool ~1945–1977, global temperatures cooled and glaciers advanced once again.  In 1977, the PDO switched from cool to warm mode, global temperatures warmed, and glaciers retreated.  In 1999, the PDO changed back to its cool mode and global cooling began.

What we can learn from this geologic climate changes is that the past is indeed the key to the future.  In 1999, the year after the warmest year of recent times, I projected the climate pattern from the past century and past 500 years into the future and predicted that we would be due for 25–30 years of global cooling beginning about 2000.  The PDO changed from its warm to cool mode in 1999 and since then we have had global cooling, quite moderate to flat (interrupted by two warm El Ninos) and intensifying since 2007.

oscillating_climate4

Figure 4.  Projection of climate changes of the last century and past 500 years into the future.  The black curve is temperature variation from 1900 to 2009; the red line is the IPCC projected warming from the IPCC website in 2000; the blue curves are several possible projections of climate change to 2040+ based on past global cooling periods (1945-1977; 1880 to 1915; and 1790 to 1820).  The lack of sun spots during the past solar cycle has surpassed all records since the Dalton Minimum and some solar physicists have suggested we may be headed for a Dalton or Maunder type mimimum with severe cooling.

Abstract of paper presented to Geological Society of America, Oct. 19, 2009

THE ROLE OF THE OCEANS AND THE SUN IN LATE PLEISTOCENE AND HISTORIC GLACIAL AND CLIMATIC FLUCTUATIONS

EASTERBROOK, Don J., Dept. of Geology, Western Washington Univ, Bellingham, WA 98225, don.easterbrook [ -at -] wwu.edu

Lidar imagery of the southern part of the Fraser Lowland in WA reveals previously unknown, multiple, latest Pleistocene (Sumas Stade) end moraines overlying Everson glaciomarine drift (gmd). Multiple marine shorelines extend from about 540’ to about 100’above present sea level and are truncated by two of the oldest Sumas end moraines. These moraines are younger than the underlying Everson gmd, which is well dated at 11,700 14C yrs. B.P., and older than 11,400 14C yrs. B.P. basal bog dates behind the moraines. Recession of the ice from the outermost moraines was followed by building of at least nine end moraines, some of which clearly represent glacial readvances. Basal bog dates from a kettle in outwash from the youngest Sumas moraine has been dated at 10,250 14C yrs. B.P.

Isotope data from Greenland ice cores and historic atmospheric and oceanic temperature records show a consistent pattern of fluctuating 25-30–year warm and cool periods over the past 500 years. During the past century, five of these climate fluctuations can be tied to glacial oscillations, oceanic temperature changes, atmospheric temperature changes, and solar variation.

The question is—what drives these oscillations? The older fluctuations can be linked to changes in 14C and 10Be isotope production rates in the upper atmosphere, suggesting variation in cosmogenic radiation. Historic climatic and oceanic temperature fluctuations are associated with solar variations. The excellent correlation of glacial, climatic, oceanic, and solar variation strongly suggests cause and effect relationships. Past patterns of these variations allow projection into the future.

 

New geologic evidence of past periods of oscillating, abrupt warming, and cooling

Two hundred years ago, Charles Lyell coined the phrase “The present is the key to the past.” In today’s highly contentious issues of global climate change, we might well add “The past is the key to the future, i.e., to forecast future geologic events, we must understand past climate changes.  This paper documents past global climate changes in the geologic and historic past.

Recent laser imaging of the Earth’s surface provides new evidence for abrupt, fluctuating, warm and cool climatic episodes that could not have been caused by changes in atmospheric CO2.  In a paper presented at the national meeting of the Geological Society of America in Portland, OR, Professor Don J. Easterbrook, Professor of Geology at Western Washington University, presented new data from airborne laser imagery showing well-defined, previously unknown, multiple moraines deposited by glaciers 11,700 to 10,250 years ago.

At least 9 significant, abrupt periods of warming that resulted in retreat of the Cordilleran Ice Sheet are documented by moraines from successive glacial retreats in the Fraser Lowland of NW Washington l(Fig. 1).  In addition, smaller multiple glacier recessions are found within the more prominent episodes of glacier retreat.  As indicated by the amount of glacier recession between each of the successive moraines, the warming events were of greater magnitude than those observed in recent centuries.

Figure 1.  Successive terminal moraines from shortterm glacier recessions caused by climatic warming between 11,700 and 10,250 years ago.

Isotope data from Greenland ice cores and show a consistent pattern of fluctuating warm and cool periods over the past 500 years (Fig. 2).  The average period of warming/cooling oscillations over the past 500 years is 27 years, remarkably similar to the period of alternation between warm and cool Pacific Decadal Oscillation.

Figure 2.  Paleotemperatures derived from oxygen isotope measurements of the GISP2 Greenland ice core.  Red peaks are times of warming and blue are times of cooling.  The average time period for each climatic oscillation is 27 years.

During the past century, two episodes of global warming and two of global cooling have occurred (Fig. 3), all of which can be tied to glacial oscillations, oceanic temperature changes, atmospheric temperature changes, and solar variation.

Figure 3.  Coincidence of Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), global temperature, and glacier fluctuations in the North Cascades.  Glaciers advanced during the 1880–1915 cool period when the PDO was cool, then when the PDO switched to its warm mode, global temperatures warmed, and glaciers retreated from ~1915–1945.  The PDO changed from warm to cool ~1945–1977, global temperatures cooled and glaciers advanced once again.  In 1977, the PDO switched from cool to warm mode, global temperatures warmed, and glaciers retreated.  In 1999, the PDO changed back to its cool mode and global cooling began.

What we can learn from this geologic climate changes is that the past is indeed the key to the future.  In 1999, the year after the warmest year of recent times, I projected the climate pattern from the past century and past 500 years into the future and predicted that we would be due for 25–30 years of global cooling beginning about 2000.  The PDO changed from its warm to cool mode in 1999 and since then we have had global cooling, quite moderate to flat (interrupted by two warm El Ninos) and intensifying since 2007.

Figure 4.  Projection of climate changes of the last century and past 500 years into the future.  The black curve is temperature variation from 1900 to 2009; the red line is the IPCC projected warming from the IPCC website in 2000; the blue curves are several possible projections of climate change to 2040+ based on past global cooling periods (1945-1977; 1880 to 1915; and 1790 to 1820).  The lack of sun spots during the past solar cycle has surpassed all records since the Dalton Minimum and some solar physicists have suggested we may be headed for a Dalton or Maunder type mimimum with severe cooling.

Abstract of paper presented to Geological Society of America, Oct. 19, 2009

THE ROLE OF THE OCEANS AND THE SUN IN LATE PLEISTOCENE AND HISTORIC GLACIAL AND CLIMATIC FLUCTUATIONS

EASTERBROOK, Don J., Dept. of Geology, Western Washington Univ, Bellingham, WA 98225, don.easterbrook@wwu.edu

Lidar imagery of the southern part of the Fraser Lowland in WA reveals previously unknown, multiple, latest Pleistocene (Sumas Stade) end moraines overlying Everson glaciomarine drift (gmd). Multiple marine shorelines extend from about 540’ to about 100’above present sea level and are truncated by two of the oldest Sumas end moraines. These moraines are younger than the underlying Everson gmd, which is well dated at 11,700 14C yrs. B.P., and older than 11,400 14C yrs. B.P. basal bog dates behind the moraines. Recession of the ice from the outermost moraines was followed by building of at least nine end moraines, some of which clearly represent glacial readvances. Basal bog dates from a kettle in outwash from the youngest Sumas moraine has been dated at 10,250 14C yrs. B.P.

Isotope data from Greenland ice cores and historic atmospheric and oceanic temperature records show a consistent pattern of fluctuating 25-30–year warm and cool periods over the past 500 years. During the past century, five of these climate fluctuations can be tied to glacial oscillations, oceanic temperature changes, atmospheric temperature changes, and solar variation.

The question is—what drives these oscillations? The older fluctuations can be linked to changes in 14C and 10Be isotope production rates in the upper atmosphere, suggesting variation in cosmogenic radiation. Historic climatic and oceanic temperature fluctuations are associated with solar variations. The excellent correlation of glacial, climatic, oceanic, and solar variation strongly suggests cause and effect relationships. Past patterns of these variations allow projection into the future.

Expanded abstract and slides available for viewing at 2009 Portland GSA Annual Meeting (18-21 October 2009)

Share

Advertisements

  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
pwl

Fascinating.
This shows that it’s not a good idea to settle on the early predictions of a young climate science as Al Gore has done. For if you think the science is settled you’re more often wrong. What is it with the notion of “settled science” anyhow? What a bizarre anti-scientific notion “settled science” is.
This is a really interesting paper.
REPLY: If you think that was interesting, see the next one of the front page of WUWT now. -A

Mac

so is there a link between PDO cycles and solar cycles or just coincidental?

Frank

Smoking gun?

savethesharks

VERY fascinating study. Another nail in the ole’ coffin.
However, I was eager to retrieve the expanded abstract and slides link, but could not make it work.
Chris
Norfolk, VA, USA

Douglas DC

Frank (19:29:30) : Not only smoking,the barrel is split in two and there are flash burns all over warmists faces on this one.

Hello,
Yes geologic evidence can give us much proof and show us a lot about the past, to assist us in the present, nice article,
Thank you,
Jim Cassa

SteveSadlov

8250 BC is essentially yesterday. Our hubris about the ice will do us in. It could come back so fast.

Apparently the slides and expanded abstract aren’t posted yet–they should be up soon.
Don

Jeff L

“The past is the key to the future”
The sooner the world wakes up to this concept (which is a good summary why the majority of geoscientist are also skeptics – because we know about the geologic past ) the better off we all will be’
Thanks for the post Don!

LarryOldtimer

There is no way, no possible way, to predict the future. From anything. But always remember (from the Broadway show, “Annie”),
Tomorrow! Tomorrow!
I love ya Tomorrow!
You’re always
A day
Away!

Terry Jackson

Thanks. Glad to see his work here. His website is http://www.ac.wwu.edu/~dbunny/
The actual physical geological evidence and the reconstruction of the dates and sequences tell us a lot about what happened and when it happened. Pretty hard to fake a glacier.
The correlation with the PDO could be causation or it could indicate a common independent cause. Ditto the solar issue. The only thing that matters for the current debate is that glaciers advance when the PDO goes cool.

asmilwho

An interesting post, however I have a couple of questions (OK, 3)
1. Why does the information in Figure 2 stop in 1960? If the average period is 27 years, this corresponds to almost 2 complete cycles
2. In Figure 3, why does the big thick red line 2nd from the left connect 1950 at the top to 1940 in the middle to 1950 at the bottom? What’s that supposed to show?
3. Why does Figure 4 use 10 year old projected warming from the IPCC? Since then, AR4 has been published (in 2007). Why not use the projections from that?
Not that I’m an alarmist or anything and maybe I’m being stupid but ….

dhmo

If Easterbrook is correct as he well may be this will certainly put paid to the AGW religion. I find such a victory for sanity cold comfort as an increased temperature would improve our lot. A colder world is not a thing to be looked forward to.

rbateman

Historic climatic and oceanic temperature fluctuations are associated with solar variations.
Excellent choice of words….associated.
Abrupt changes are what we learned about when Mt. St. Helens blew, and deposited in days what we thought took something like 1,000 yrs.
Fits with the literary past, too.
And today, the report on Fox News of 2 early snows in Beijing.
The sooner we get the Goredown Man Hoax fully outed, the sooner we can get on to preparations for what lies ahead.
Looks like 2015 is key.

rbateman

dhmo (22:41:51) :
A colder world is to be feared if the Agenda suceeds in moving the world the wrong way on the freeway. It need not be if we can prepare to adapt to a cooling world.

Mac (19:13:01) : You asked, “so is there a link between PDO cycles and solar cycles or just coincidental?”
I find no evidence of this in the post or in the records. There’s talk about it in the post but nothing to confirm it.
BTW, the PDO is an aftereffect of ENSO. It lags NINO3.4 SST anomalies. Refer to the Zhang et al and Newman et al links and discussions in these posts:
http://bobtisdale.blogspot.com/2009/04/misunderstandings-about-pdo-revised.html
http://bobtisdale.blogspot.com/2009/05/revisiting-misunderstandings-about-pdo.html
Also, there is no evidence of a correlation between Solar Cycles and ENSO, if you’re wondering.

Tenuc

A nice simple message from this piece – historically the earth warms and cools over a 30 year(ish) period and extra atmospheric CO2 is not to blame.
I also think our chaotic climate is fractal regarding change over time, and we get cooling/warming to different degrees on all time scales. Makes life interesting.

The PDO drivers need to be identified, it is obvious the PDO and ENSO are major long and short term influences on Earth’s climate. The Solar link to PDO falls down dramatically between 1940-1960, the PDO is negative and the world temps are declining but the highest sunspot activity in 400 years is recorded. The only legout I can see is nuclear testing, but I am unsure of their climate impact.
Perhaps Dr. Scafetta is on to something?

INGSOC

Hey! This paper deals with my neck of the woods! We’re famous!!! Gonna git me a reality show! Woohoo!
Seriously, very interesting paper Dr. Easterbrook. Thank you.

Bill Illis

The more we can understand about the paleoclimate, the more will be our understanding of today’s climate.
The pro-AGW climate scientists can’t see variability in the historical record. They (almost) accept that there were indeed ice ages but everything seems to be explainable through greenhouse forcing to them. CO2 hardly changed at all from 9,000 BC to 1750 AD, yet there is considerable variability in the climate over the period.
CO2 fell to 280 ppm (for perhaps the very first time in Earth history) 24 million years ago and has stayed at or lower than that level ever since (give or take some ups and downs in the ice ages and the recent increase we have added.) Yet the climate has varied by +/- 4.0C to 5.0C over that period.

John Galt

You mean there was a climate before 1978 and it changed naturally? Really? Does anybody else know?

Ninderthana

[snip – no barycenter discussion here, do it on another blog]

Jim F

Very interesting piece, Don. Geology strikes again. A key element is the information to project a possible range of temperature declines. Noting which, in Figure 2, the 1880-1915 cool period is especially cold. Can that be the added effect of Krakatoa?

Kevin Kilty

Holman Jenkins, writing in the Wall Street Journal today, says that human influence on climate remains maddeningly similar to natural climate variation, much to the irritation of the Al Gores of the world. He also alludes to the hockey stick and its undoing, and to massaged temperature records. A good read at (I hope the crazy looking URL works)
Wall Street Journal Online

bill

On another entry with reference to current shrinking of glaciers there are many posts claiming this does not represent temperaturte mearly precipitation changes. Which is it to be?

Benjamin

Dr. Easterbrook wrote: “In 1999, the PDO changed back to its cool mode and global cooling began.”
But the UAH lower troposphere global temperature record shows a .11 deg C/decade warming trend since January 1999. How does this square with the quoted statement?
Dr. Easterbrook wrote: “The PDO changed from its warm to cool mode in 1999 and since then we have had global cooling, quite moderate to flat (interrupted by two warm El Ninos) and intensifying since 2007.”
January 2007, with it’s very warm reading of a .594 anomaly, was far warmer than any temperature recorded in 1999: that is some global cooling! From that point there was a cooling reaching a minimum in May 2008, coinciding with La Nina and the solar minimum. Since that time temperatures have trended up strongly, with September 2009 recorded as the warmest September in the satellite temperature record, and this occurred more than two years into the longest and deepest solar minimum in 100 years.
Methinks that a 1 and a half year warming trend from the last low with a record high September temperature is hardly ‘intensifying’ cooling.

Benjamin (08:51:06) :
Dr. Easterbrook wrote: “In 1999, the PDO changed back to its cool mode and global cooling began.”

Yes – this bothered me somewhat. If we’re now a full decade into the current cool PDO phase then I’m not sure global temperatures are responding in the way we would expect. I accept that one cool phase might be different to another, but it only took about 6 years for most of the cooling in the 1945-77 phase to be realised.
I’m also a bit puzzled by Don’s Fig 4. He says “The black curve is temperature variation from 1900 to 2009” , but the curve suggests post-2000 temperatures have been consistently below (or certainly no higher) those in the 1990s . Whichever dataset is used, we know this is not the case.

stephen richards

Geoff Sharp
I am old enough to remember working through the coldest NW Europe winter for 250 yrs in 62/3. A open atmosphere test ban treaty was signed I think in 61 to end all atmospheric test by the end of 62. In consequence, there was an enormous amount of testing that went on in 62 that may/could have contributed to that winter.

David L. Hagen

Compare Lucia’s +/- 95% statistical trend lines of Hadley temperatures compared to IPCC projections.

Note the IPCC nominal trend of 0.2C/decades (purple) lies well outside and above those uncertainty intervals. This means that if 2001 is a “fair” year to begin comparisons between models and projections, then the nominal projection in the IPCC AR4 is inconsistent with the earth’s trend which it was intended to project.

Herb

Dr. Easterbrook presents some useful insights into the recent past, but why stop in the Pleistocene? The glacial deposits he describes overlie Eocene rocks that preserve fossils of sub-tropical floras that flourished in the Pacific Northwest. Of course some have argued these Eocene strata were emplaced from Baja, but that is another discussion.